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Birds of the Mesozoic: An Illustrated Field Guide

by Benito, J.; Pous, R.O.

  • Paperback £29.50
  • New Book Availability : In stock
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  • Catalogue No : 49588
  • ISBN : 9788416728527
  • Published : 2022
  • Cover : Paperback
  • Pages : 200

Our customers have given this title an average rating of 5 out of 5 from 1 review(s)

Customer Rating: AvgRating1AvgRating2AvgRating3AvgRating4AvgRating5


Birds are the most diverse tetrapod group today, but they have a rich and complex evolutionary history beyond that of their modern radiation. Appearing during the Jurassic, more than 160 million years ago, birds took to the skies and evolved into a plethora of forms during the Age of the Dinosaurs.

This comprehensive and up to date illustrated field guide, by palaeontologist Juan Benito and palaeoartist Roc Olivé, aims to illustrate in unprecedented detail the staggering diversity of avialans (modern birds and their closest fossil relatives) that lived from the origin of the group until the Mass Extinction that ended the reign of the non-avian dinosaurs 66 million years ago: the Birds of the Mesozoic.

This beautifully illustrated field guide includes over 250 full-colour illustrations covering more than 200 types of bird that populated the world during the Mesozoic Era. In addition to detailed fact files on the diverse avifauna of the Mesozoic, including a description of each species, with information on its name, location, size, period, habitat, and general characteristics, this guide also seeks to explain the origins of the group and their evolution from other feathered dinosaurs up to the origins of modern birds in the Late Cretaceous. It also covers in detail multiple facets of their phylogenetic, morphological, and ecological diversity, and provides an introduction to bird skeletal anatomy and several of the most recent and cutting-edge methods palaeontologists use to reconstruct fossil bird colour, diet, and biology.

Easy-to-use and pleasant to contemplate, this book is a must for both bird and palaeontology enthusiasts!

Customer Reviews

Our customers have given this title an average rating of 5 out of 5 from 1 review(s), Click here to add your own review for this title.

Gehan de Silva Wijeyeratne on 8/25/2023 11:22:37 PM

Rating1Rating2Rating3Rating4Rating5 (5 out of 5)

There are two audiences for this book, the Birds of the Mesozoic (BoM). Firstly, with those with a specialist interest in palaeontology who would like a catalogue of birds known from the Mesozoic. A catalogue of Mesozoic birds will be a moving target and the need for d editions is no bad thing for a publisher. The second audience is people like myself, who don't have a specific interest in palaeontology but have an informed laypersons interest in evolution and the biology of living things, and especially so in relation to birds.

The first part of the BoM (pages 10 to 57) is a very useful overview of the evolution of birds and the evolution of key parts of their skeleton, especially those that support flight. The book begins by defining what is meant by a bird, as different concepts are in use when the term has to explain long extinct ancestors. The authors define birds as the clade Aviale or avialans. The first figure, a simplified phylogeny shows the Aviale branching off from other lineages that led to other theropods, Dromaesauridae and Troodontidae. The first 3 figures which show phylogeny at different levels of detail are important for understanding the field guide section which is arranged in the order of the phylogeny with section dividers at higher level taxonomic divisions for orders and key families. These sections are preceded by introductory text. The closer a lineage is to the original branching point, the more they are similar to the ground dwelling dinosaurs from the movie Jurassic park. Other main introductory sections include? which explains the discovery of microscopic structures which helps to reconstruct colours. The section on Biologycovers many aspects including the development of bones and why the fossil bones of young birds can be distinguished from mature adults.

Skeletons comparing an Archaeopteryx with a modern pigeon (figure 4) shows the transformation that has taken place over a large span of time. Understanding how the skeletal features of living birds help to anchor muscles and support their lifestyle informs the process of constructing what a fossil bird looked like when presented with one or more key bones. The osteology section also has many figures illustrating skulls, sternal morphology, shoulder articulation, the avialan coracoid, avialan furcula, humeral morphology, pelvic girdle, hind limb etc. As you read through terms such as furcula (wishbone) and coracoids (a bone that connects the keel to the vertebral column and wing joins) becomes as familiar as primaries and secondaries are to a birder. As you read about how the bones changed to support powered flight, you begin to understand why it has been said that for a human to fly it will require a keel two metres deep. The next time I carve a roast chicken, I will have a deeper appreciation of how a chicken's bone structure came to be.

Finally, the introductory part contains a section on the
Bird Fossil Record
which introduces aspects of geology and has a map showing each of the main fossil bearing rock formations that have yielded Mesozoic bird fossils. For the faint hearted the first part of the book can feel like a crash course in medical forensics but if you have always been intrigued by how scientists can figure out so much from a few fossil bones the introduction is a marvellous exposition of how the science of palaeontology works. The introductory part of the book can very easily be spun off into another book with more diagrams and text boxes explaining the study of fossil birds.

The field guide part of the book arranges the Mesozoic birds into the taxonomic groups encountered in the first three figures in the introduction. The start of an order or family is flagged by a section in capital letters and typically a page of introductory text. The species accounts have a standard structure with text on the left facing the plates on the right, in the style of a modern field guide. Typically, three species are covered in a double page spread. The text has standard headings for known material, morphology, plumage & soft tissue, biology and notes. I found it interesting to randomly read accounts. But for a fuller appreciation you need to have read much of the introductory material.

The end sections include a list of fossil birds excluded from the book, a glossary and an extensive bibliography (a trademark of Lynx Edicions publications who do not skimp on this).

From the acknowledgements it is clear that the author and the artist Roc Oliv? collaborated to make the reconstructions scientifically acceptable. They are also aesthetically pleasing. The field guide section would have been a labour of love for the artist and author to put together and it is a clever idea to present a catalogue of known fossils in a way that is lively and visually interesting. It also an easier way to digest the phylogeny as presently understood however incomplete that would be.

Birds are quite a special group of vertebrates and this book helps to reinforce that.

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