Romancing the Birds and Dinosaurs by Alan Feduccia [4/10]

Anyone reading the blurb for “Romancing the Birds and Dinosaurs: Forays in Postmodern Paleontology” might expect an engaging every-person account of a captivating subject, namely the evolutionary origin of birds, whether from dinosaurs or elsewhere. Perhaps as readers, we have been spoilt with an array of explanatory, pleasurable reads from leaders in the field, but in any case, this book is something else altogether. Although scientific consensus is that birds evolved from ground-dwelling dinosaurs, the science is not fully settled, and a dissenting voice over decades has been paleornithologist Feduccia, who sees birds as having evolved from some other reptiles and as having learnt flight from falling out of trees (rather than learning to fly from the ground, as most think now). Romancing the Birds and Dinosaurs consists of twenty-three pithy chapters tackling aspects of his dissent, some of them being general reasoning, most being disagreements over the lessons of recently discovered fossils. In other words, this book is an old argument presented once again. Each chapter is dense with complexity and I certainly was not able to follow his arguments with a neophyte’s grounding. I admired his verve and wit and was able to decipher, with the aid of some ancillary research, the bones of his arguments, but I really can recommend Romancing the Birds and Dinosaurs only to insiders from his field or a related one.

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