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Which book are you reading now? Volume XIII

Discussion in 'Serial Thread Archives' started by Takhisis, Jan 6, 2019.

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  1. hobbsyoyo

    hobbsyoyo Deity

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    I've been reading The Rise and Fall of the Dinosaurs: A New History of a Lost World by Stephen L. Brusatte. It's a well-written and interesting book and has a good balance of history/personal experiences/interesting people/dinosaurs to stay engaging.

    It was interesting to read how late in the game dinosaurs developed and took off. Mammals more or less became a distinct group a while before dinos and mammals and their precursors were at the top of the food chain until the very end of the Triassic. The mind blowing part of this is that the Triassic is portrayed in popular culture as being firmly in the era of dinosaurs even though it really wasn't. The dinos began to dominate as they got bigger and bigger - and their gigantism was fueled in part by some nifty traits. They had the lung and bone structure of birds which means that they have secondary air sacs (like mini-lungs) distributed throughout their bodies and in their bones. This makes it easier to get large and still maintain high energy levels while simultaneously making them lighter. The sauropods (leaf eaters) also had phenomenally adaptable body plans that allowed their necks and tails to stretch to their characteristic proportions. This allowed them to stand in one spot and hoover up a huge amount of plant material without having to move their bodies and expend a lot of energy in doing so.

    Oh and the changeover from Triassic to Jurassic was very reminiscent of what happened with the Cretaceous/Tertiary changeover only in reverse. Both were mass extinctions that eliminated all of the large-bodied plant and meat eaters from the food chain, allowing the second-rank species of a completely different group a chance to evolve into those emptied niches and grow large. From the Triassic to Jurassic the handover went from mammals to dinos while the Cretaceous to Tertiary handover went the opposite way.

    I just got to the section on T-Rex and it's clear that Stephen is either a fan or keenly aware of the need to fan service this most charismatic of dinos. It turns out the T-Rex had a large brain and had an EQ (a measure of body mass to brain size that is an OK indicator of intelligence) of 4, which is on par for dolphins and twice as high as dogs. Also, not only were the skulls huge and scary, they had a lot of adaptations in the adult animals that allowed them to literally chomp on big dinosaurs like triceratops. Very few predators then or now actually take huge chunks of their prey and instead wound it or strangle it and then pick the flesh off the bones. T-Rex was more like a great white in that it really could just take a chunk out of another dinosaur like you'd expect in a cartoon. The juveniles did not have this ability though, and would have had to hunt more like a typical predator by chasing it down and delivering many small bites; while the adults would rely more on ambush and sheer power. There is bone and footprint evidence that suggest that T-Rexes spent time together in large groups containing juveniles and adults. Stephen believes they probably hunted in mixed packs with the hunting strategies of the adults and juveniles complimenting each other. I can imagine a group of juvenile T-Rexes flushing a triceratops out of cover and straight into an ambush with a waiting adult T-Rex.

    Basically, little T-Rexes hunted like raptors and might have worked in teams with big T-Rexes that hunted like great whites. They could take down 20+ ton (i.e. tank-sized) animals.

    Terrifying stuff.

    They also had absurdly large olfactory areas in their brains (which may inflate their EQ scores to a degree), large eyes and very large inner ears. They weren't just smart and big - they had excellent sensory perception as well. Oh and they had feathers; although these feathers would have looked and functioned more like mammal hair than bird feathers. They have not found trace hair fossils on T-Rex itself but they have on its ancestors which makes it likely it was feathered.
     
    Last edited: Nov 10, 2019
  2. Synsensa

    Synsensa Deity Retired Moderator

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    Are the personal experience stories to the point? After reading Antisocial I am scarred by supposedly non-fiction educational books. :lol:
     
  3. hobbsyoyo

    hobbsyoyo Deity

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    Yes they are and they are typically short. I'd say less than 15% of the book is personal experiences, another 15% stories about other people, another 15% about various historical things around the discovery of fossils and the development of archaeology. The rest is about dinosaurs. All in all it's a very good mix up that helps the book along.

    I would not say it's a casual book about dinosaurs. It is meant for the general public but it doesn't skimp on the details, even as it avoids getting hung up on them.
     
    Last edited: Nov 10, 2019
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  4. Birdjaguar

    Birdjaguar Hanafubuki Super Moderator Supporter

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    I read it this summer and loved it. It is a nice mix of dino science and author passion. It is a great update on what the current thinking is. :thumbsup:
     
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  5. hobbsyoyo

    hobbsyoyo Deity

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    Finished the dinosaur book. The most recent evidence shows that the Chixalub impact is the sole, indisputable cause of the great dino die-off. There were some theories in the late 90's, early 00's that suggested that dinosaur diversity had collapsed just before the impact and that they likely would have gone extinct anyways. This was based off a decline in diversity of the ceratopsian and duck-billed dinosaurs. However, this turned out to be something of a false indicator in the data. The western US had especially good conditions for fossil formation during the late Cretaceous and thus dinosaurs that inhabited it at that time are over-represented. While it's true that there was a loss of diversity of these species in North America, there was no similar losses in any other lines of dinosaurs in other continents or even within North America. We now know that all other types of dinos continued diversifying right up until the end and the bird lines (and several non-bird but related offshoots that had different approaches to flying) were undergoing a rapid diversification that is indicative of a healthy population. Finally, even as the diversity of ceratopsian and duck-billed dino species fell in North America, the numbers of individuals and herd size of the species that remained were stable.

    It struck me how young the author of this book is, he's in his 30's and already an established leader in the field. I also like how he went out of his way to talk up his fellow archaeologists and their own achievements while not bragging about his own. You can tell from the way he was personally present for a lot of major discoveries that he is a major figure in the field but he gives public credit mostly to those he worked with and not himself. I love it. One day I hope to write a book about the changes going on in the aerospace industry with the same sort of humble authority.
     
  6. Lexicus

    Lexicus Deity

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    I think that's partially because, IIRC, a lot of the synapsids, like that big lizard with the fan on its back (edit: Dimetrodon), were thought to be dinosaurs back in the day. Before we knew a whole lot about dinosaurs they were also basically thought to be just big lizards, eg the old notion of T-Rex as a lumbering upright giant:


    I read an article in the Atlantic a while back that "taught the controversy" as it was centered on Gerta Keller who insists the Deccan traps were the main cause of the K-T extinction.
    It kind of frustrated me because it portrayed her as a sort of lone voice in the wilderness, and the reason she is a lone voice in the wilderness is that the evidence for the impact theory is really very strong. I don't think the article did a good job of conveying that.
     
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  7. rah

    rah Deity Supporter

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    Just started the new Jack Reacher book. Probably only take a few hours to get through it but I'm sure I'll enjoy it. Too bad we only get one a year.
     
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  8. Takhisis

    Takhisis Jinping, wer fragt uns?

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    up yours.
    Spoiler: he wins.
     
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  9. rah

    rah Deity Supporter

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    Now you've ruined it :lol: :lol: :lol:
     
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  10. hobbsyoyo

    hobbsyoyo Deity

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    I believe you about the synapsids being thought of as dinosaurs though I've never heard that before. The stigma of dinos being cold blooded was certainly deeply ingrained and didn't really fade from the discourse until our own lifetime. The stigma about them being reptiles (which is a separate issue) faded a while back though. The main issue with the reptile thing is archaeologists kept trying to force dinosaurs into lizard-like sprawling gaits and stances even though the bone structures clearly did not allow for it. Even after that all got sorted out, people clung to the slow-and-stupid attributes of many cold blooded animals. Dinos were mostly warm blooded but it's a spectrum; large animals produce enough heat by dent of existing that they often don't need or have the cellular infrastructure to generate internal heat the way you and I do. The bird line of dinosaurs certainly had avian like growth rates and metabolism before they ever took flight but they were an outlier in that most dinos had intermediate metabolisms and growth rates closer to mammals than birds but still quite a bit higher than reptiles.

    It's kind of amazing to hear all of the advances in dinosaur knowledge being brought on by completely unrelated fields. Engineering in particular has developed a lot of modeling and analysis tools that let archaeologists figure out how bones and muscles fit together and the movement they allowed for. Oil exploration led to ground mapping techniques that found Chixalub and has allowed for deep-core sampling which helps assess age and background environments for certain time periods. Medical devices have allowed scientists to peer inside bones and uncover hidden structures (like bird lungs) within them and even characterize some soft tissues like the brain.
    Current research points to the Deccan Traps being kicked into high gear by the aftershocks of the impact. They already existed and were active when the asteroid hit but they began a new round of powerful eruptions in tandem with the asteroid impact and there is evidence to suggest that there was a causal relationship which saw the traps grow in ferocity.
     
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  11. Kyriakos

    Kyriakos Alien spiral maker

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    I never liked Tyrannosaurus Rex. Maybe I am biased by my year of playing Zoids in elementary school, but I only owned the Triceratops and the Stegosaurus.
     
  12. EnglishEdward

    EnglishEdward Deity

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    I have just finished reading:

    This is Going to Hurt

    by

    Adam Kay

    which was about an NHS obstetrician's work,
    (fortunately after my wife had the children).
     
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  13. EnglishEdward

    EnglishEdward Deity

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    I am now reading:

    Northwest of Earth

    by

    C L Moore

    which is like an old set of sci-fantasy novellas.

    So far I have finished the first three chapters or stories:

    Shambleau
    Black Thirst
    Scarlet Dream

    Imagine Edgar Rice Burroughs hybridised with H P Lovecraft
     
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  14. Lexicus

    Lexicus Deity

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    IIRC there's also much finer computer-imaging technology letting us see some of the vein structures and other things that show the dinosaurs couldn't really have been cold-blooded. It's also exciting that there have been a few discoveries of preserved soft tissue which of course leads to the question of what other soft tissue might be out there waiting to be found.
     
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  15. hobbsyoyo

    hobbsyoyo Deity

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    They have even been able to find soft tissues inside of fossilized bones. A researcher dissolved some discarded bone fragments and was able to see (and play with!) soft tissue structures. I don't know if anything else came of her efforts.
     
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  16. Kyriakos

    Kyriakos Alien spiral maker

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    They probably now live in a research bunker, having half-morphed into a dinosaur :)
     
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  17. Lexicus

    Lexicus Deity

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    It sucks thinking about what discoveries may have been lost because paleontologists assumed for so long that soft tissue couldn't possibly be preserved for millions of years.
     
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  18. hobbsyoyo

    hobbsyoyo Deity

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  19. SS-18 ICBM

    SS-18 ICBM Oscillator

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    Baghdad: The City in Verse is a collection of English-translated Arabic poems about the titular city edited and translated by Reuven Snir. It covers the period from the founding of the city in the 8th century to the initial years of the post-2003 occupation, with a large gap from the 13th-century Mongol sacking to the 17th century. Often written in exile, the verses examine many concepts such as the beauty and corruption of the city, nostalgia for the Abbasid golden age, Arab nationalism, the paranoia of authoritarianism, and the destruction of shock-and-awe doctrine.
     
  20. AmazonQueen

    AmazonQueen Virago

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    Currently reading Greeks Bearing Gifts, one of the Bernie Gunther series by Phillip Kerr. Rather annoyed by how difficult it is to get any of the Leaphorn series by Joe Hillerman, even secondhand, I may have to buy off Amazon which normally I try to avoid doing.
     
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