cover image Dinosaurs Without Bones: Dinosaur Lives Revealed by Their Trace Fossils

Dinosaurs Without Bones: Dinosaur Lives Revealed by Their Trace Fossils

Anthony J. Martin. Norton, $29.95 (480p) ISBN 978-1-60598-499-5

Martin’s popular, non-academic debut bubbles over with the joy of scientific discovery as he shares his natural enthusiasm for the blend of sleuthing and imagination that he brings to the field of ichnology—the study of trace fossils and features left by organismal behavior, such as tracks, nests, and burrows. These yield evidence that is both more abundant than the bones, which Martin playfully disparages as “body fossils,” and reveal more about how, where, and when dinosaurs live, moved, ate, and raised their young. Martin marvels at the awkward way that scientific knowledge moves forward, and he shows no jaded academic anger as he highlights how the dramatic rewards of finally making new discoveries are complicated by the human drama of scientists with competing theories butting heads in academia or in the popular press. He finishes with a section on how extrapolation back to the Mesozoic Era from modern species is another powerful tool for understanding dinosaur behavior. The energy behind Martin’s “what if” saurian life scenarios is no mere distraction; his science is solid and his descriptions of the current state of classification and knowledge are clear, up to date, and detailed. The book is great fun for anyone looking to revive their childhood dinosaur obsessions. (Mar.)