Category Archives: paleontology

9 Dinosaur Books to Read (That Aren’t “Jurassic Park”)

May 15th was National Dinosaur Day. It’s been said that the reason dinosaurs went extinct is because they didn’t read. But they sure make for memorable literary protagonists. So to celebrate Dinosaur Day, let’s look at nine memorable titles about our prehistoric pals.

Note: I will leave out Jurassic Park because it was probably the 1st title that popped into your head when you hear the word “dinosaur literature” and both the book and the films it inspired have been done to death (though I’d still like to wish it a happy 25th anniversary).

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The Lost World (1912)

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

 

 

 

You know him best as the creator of Sherlock Holmes but Doyle also wrote this novel that popularized the concept of a “hidden world” where dinosaurs, prehistoric creatures and even early humans survived extinction and lived undetected from modern civilization for millennia.

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The Land That Time Forgot (first published in serial form in 1918, then published as a novel in 1924)

Edgar Rice Burroughs

Following in the footsteps of Doyle, Burroughs also wrote about an undiscovered world where dinosaurs were alive and well, but set the story against the backdrop of World War 1 and U boat warfare.

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Dinosaur Tales (1983)

Ray Bradbury

I have never listened to anyone who criticized my taste in space travel, sideshows and gorillas. When this occurs I pack up my dinosaurs and leave the room.

Five stories, one poem and illustrations by Steranko, Moebius and William Stout, make up this unique collection of every dino story penned by the master himself. These include “The Fog Horn”, “A Sound of Thunder” and “Besides a Dinosaur, Whatta Ya Wanna Be When You Grow Up?” Despite being published by Barnes and Noble Books, I found this hidden treasure at Half Price Books.

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The Dinotopia Series (1992-2007)

James Gurney

When I was in elementary school, Dinotopia mania was at its peak, thanks to all the merchandise many of my male classmates were taking with them to school (like folders and backpacks). Why I didn’t beg my mother for some Dinotopia swag is beyond me. Maybe because I hadn’t read the book. In fact I didn’t read the series until I was in college(!) and I fell madly in love with James Gurney’s lush, Pre-Raphaelite influenced artwork. I even used one of the procession scenes as a wallpaper for my office computer when I worked as a school attendance clerk and received a lot of complements from passing co-workers. Part travelogue and part adventure story, Dinotopia tells the story of scientist Arthur Denison as he and his son wash upon a mysterious island where dinosaurs and humans live in peaceful interdependence.

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Dinosaur Fantastic (1993)

Edited by Mike Resnick and Martin H. Greenberg

From Goodreads: Mike Resnick and Martin H. Greenberg have called upon such gifted writers as Robert Sheckley, Pat Cadigan, Frank M. Robinson, Judith Tarr, Mercedes Lackey, Larry Dixon, Bill Fawcett, Katherine Kerr, David Gerrold, and Kristine Kathryn Rusch to create these twenty-five stories of the most terrifying and fascinating creatures to ever inhabit the Earth: the dinosaurs. From their native Jurassic landscape to your own backyard, from their ancient mastery of the planet to modern-day curiosities trapped in an age not their own, from the earth-shaking tyrannosaur to the sky-soaring pterodactyl, here are unforgettable tales-some poignant, some humorous, some offering answers to the greatest puzzle of prehistory. But all are certain to capture the hearts and imaginations of dinosaur lovers of all ages.

I can’t tell you what stories are in the anthology but I hope to read it someday.

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Anonymous Rex (2000)

Eric Garcia)

Dinosaurs disguised as (human) detectives to determine whodunnit. A notable entry in the “hard boiled sci-fi” subgenre.

Xenozoic Tales a.k.a. Cadillacs and Dinosaurs (1987-1994)

Mark Schultz

I remember seeing CBS promos for this show (Cadillacs and Dinosaurs) in the early ’90s (“IN YOUR EYE!!!”) but I didn’t know it was based on a comic (Xenozoic Tales) until now. This video below explains how the cartoon and the comic differ (and why the show failed miserably):

While TV Tropes gives more info on the comic/franchise. Another title I look forward to reading someday.

Age of Reptiles (1993-2015)

Ricardo Delgado

One day I googled “Ricardo Delgado” and I got some muscled guy in a thong. Oops. With all of that bodybuilding and posing, I don’t think he has the time to draw dino comics. So if you ever run into him don’t ask him to sign your copy of Age of Reptiles, a series published by Dark Horse about the everyday struggles of various dinosaurs throughout the – you guessed it – Age of Reptiles. There’s been four titles published so far: Tribal Warfare, The Hunt, The Journey and Ancient Egyptians. The most notable aspect of the series is that there’s no words or sounds. The stories rely on the pictures alone.

Oh and this is the Ricardo Delgardo who created the series.

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Dinosaurs vs Aliens (2012)

Grant Morrison

Did you know that during the Mesozoic Era an alien invasion was thwarted by intelligent dinosaurs? YOU DIDN’T KNOW THAT?!?! IF DINOSAURS HADN’T INTERVENED WE WOULDN’T BE HERE!!! THIS IS WHY DINOSAURS DESERVE OUR RESPECT!!!! That’s why to this very day we honor dinosaurs with…Dinosaur Day!

Happy (Belated) Dinosaur Day.

 

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Cenozoic Mammals That Should Be Made Into Toys

… And not just the Smilodon and the Woolly Mammoth.

What is the Cenozoic Era, you ask? Without going into too much scientific detail, it’s the era following the Mesozoic (Triassic, Jurassic and Cretaceous) that lasted 66 million years ago. It’s divided into three periods: the Paleogene, the Neogene and the Quarternary (popularly known as the “Ice Age”). The dinosaurs are gone and the mammals and birds have taken over. But these aren’t the mammals and birds we’re familiar with today. It’s the time of giants. A time when sloths ate from the trees instead of climbing them (Megatherium). When camels had necks as long as giraffes (Aepycamelus). When rhinos were woolly. When whales looked like reptiles (Zeuglodon/Basilosaurus). When birds were as tall as trees (Gastornis). When horses had three toes (Mesohippus). And when the largest animal ever to walk the earth was a hornless rhinoceros (Paraceratherium).

I’ve been a dinosaur lover since that time in my childhood when my father came home with dinosaur toys for me to play with. I even owned a red dress with dinosaurs all over it. But when I was in the fifth grade, I came across a book written by Tom McGowen, with spectacular illustrations by Rod Ruth, called Album of Prehistoric Animals – which became my first exposure to Cenozoic Mammals (for more details on that book – read this post at my Tumblr blog). I’ve been loving these animals as much as dinosaurs ever since and have championed them to anyone who’ll listen. So you can guess how frustrated I feel when I can’t find that much merchandise featuring these amazing animals.

There’ve been more diverse depictions of prehistoric reptile life in toys thanks to media like the Jurassic Park franchise and the Walking With Dinosaurs tv series and exhibit. You can find toys of Carnotaurus, Spinosaurus, Nigersaurus and Therizinosaurus alongside the usual suspects (T.rex, Triceratops, Stegosaurus, etc.). Thanks to companies like Safari Ltd. you can even find non-dinosaur prehistoric creatures like Postosuchus, Dunkleosteus, and Megalodon. And since we’re on the subject of Safari Ltd., the education-based company, bless their hearts, has made some Cenozoic mammal toys besides the two usual suspects (Smilodon, Woolly Mammoth). They’ve added Doedicurus, Megatherium and Ambelodon. But these toys are sold only through Michaels or Joann’s and are rare finds (at least where I live). Your only other option is to buy them online. Another company that makes superb, detailed dino toys is a German-based company named Schleich. You’ll find most of their products at Toys R Us, but if you were to look at their official website, you’ll see anything but Cenozoic mammals. And when it comes to stuffed animals – forget it. I’d love to have me a stuffed Indricotherium but that’s not going to happen anytime soon. I do own a stuffed Smilodon (saber-toothed cat, for those of you still wondering) and recently bought a woolly mammoth from the Children’s Natural History Museum in Fremont, CA. Both were made by Wild Republic – a company that specializes in educational stuffed animals – but, predictably, those are your only two options. So if I were to contact these companies about making more Cenozoic toys (both plush and plastic) here are my seven choices:

Indricotherium

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Once known as Baluchitherium and also called Paraceratherium, this creature lived during the Oligocene period in what is now Mongolia, China and the Balkans. It was estimated to be 16 ft high and 24 ft long, making it, as I said before, the largest land animal to walk the earth at the time.

Megatherium

Megatherum_DB

Commonly known as the giant ground sloth, this animal was the size of an elephant and lived in South America (where else?) during the Neogene period. Whether it was as slow as its modern-day relatives is up for debate but you sure didn’t want to get swiped by its claws.

Brontotherium

Brontotherium

Another member of the rhino family, famous for its Y-horn. It too was the size of an elephant and lived in South Dakota and Nebraska during the Paleogene period. Some of the earliest fossils were discovered by Native Americans (Sioux) who believed that thunderstorms were caused by their stampedes (bronto = “thunder”, therium = “beast”).

Entelodont

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Believed to be related to pigs, these omnivores lived on the plains of North America, Europe and Asia for 21 million years during the Neogene period. Their most famous feature is the bony lumps on the side of their heads, making them resemble warthogs. The average Entelodont stood 6 ft tall at the shoulder.

Zeuglodon

Basilosaurus

I chose to call this creature by the name Sir Richard Owen chose when he came to the conclusion that this was the earliest ancestor of the whale and not a marine reptile like Mosasaurus. But today it’s still called Basilosaurus even though that name means “king lizard”. Fun fact: it’s the state fossil of Mississippi and Alabama.

Thylacosmilus

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No, you’re not seeing another species of Smilodon. In fact this animal isn’t even a cat. It’s a marsupial that lived in South America during the Neogene period (that means it’s distantly related to POSSUMS!!!).

Xenokeryx amidalae (heck, any one of those prehistoric giraffes. They had some crazy horns!)

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Star Warriors should already be familiar with this one because it was named after Padme Amidala for its distinctive “hairdo”. Can you imagine the types of Star Wars toys made with this one? It lived during the Neogene period. Also believed by scientists to be related to deer as well.

ChalicotheriumChalicotheriumDB2

 

The weirdest one on my list. Nobody can pinpoint what species it was related to: it looks like a cross between a gorilla, a horse, a bear and a giant sloth. It was named for its pebble-like teeth. Can you imagine the looks on people’s faces when they notice the plush toy your baby or toddler is holding in his or her arm and the first thing that comes out of mouths is what is it??!! 

So join me in my quest to make these products happen. Contact these companies (or any other toy company you can think of. Read: I did contact Hansa toys one time suggesting they make an indricotherium but I never got a response.):

wildrepublic.com

hansatoysusa.com

schleich-s.com

safariltd.com

and give them your two cents for what type of Cenozoic mammal (or any other non-dinosaur prehistoric animal) you’d like to see on the shelves. By the way, what prehistoric animal is your favorite?

And does anyone know if Build-A-Bear lets you make other animals besides bears?

 

 

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