How to Build a Dinosaur: Extinction Doesn’t Have to Be Forever

Jack Horner, Author, James Gorman, Author . Dutton $25.95 (246p) ISBN 978-0-525-95104-9

The premise of this provocative but frustrating book by MacArthur Award–winning paleontologist Horner and New York Times deputy science editor Gorman (coauthors of Digging Dinosaurs ) : a kind of reverse genetic engineering could make it possible to “ build” a dinosaur embryo from the embryo of a modern bird—a chicken, say— since birds are the evolutionary descendants of dinosaurs. The trick would involve the new science of evolutionary development (known as evo devo) and a host of biological techniques. Horner and Gorman argue that during the process, one could stop and analyze every frame of the evolutionary tape as it played in reverse. The authors use the research on tail development of Hans Larsson at McGill University to explore how embryos can illuminate evolution. Much of the rest of the book offers background, but often digresses, for example, into hunting for DNA from 68-million-year-old dinosaur bones or the surfing habit of the man who discovered the polymerase chain reaction or how genetically close humans and Neanderthals are—none of which advances the book’s central argument. B&w illus. (Mar.)

Reviewed on: 01/26/2009
Release date: 04/01/2009
Genre: Nonfiction
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