Does the world really need another book about dinosaurs?
The answer is an emphatic yes, says paleontologist Kevin Padian, and coeditor of the massive new "Encyclopedia of Dinosaurs" (Academic Press, 1997).
"This is the first big compendium by so many specialists and about so many topics related to the Age of Dinosaurs," says Padian, professor of integrative biology and curator of lower vertebrates at the Museum of Paleontology.
Padian's coeditor is Philip Currie, curator of dinosaurs at the Royal Tyrrell Museum of Palaeontology in Drumheller, Alberta, Canada, and adjunct professor at the University of Calgary.
"This is not a field guide," Padian emphasizes. "This book is about the biology of dinosaurs, about how we know what we do about dinosaur evolution, physiology, behavior-even how they cared for their young."
Accessible to scholar and non-academic dinosaur lover alike, the beautifully illustrated encyclopedia includes discussions of dinosaur skin and teeth, footprints and fossilized feces, and detailed summaries of the major groups of dinosaurs, from the fierce Tyrannosauridae to the long-necked tree-top browsers called sauropods.
There's even an entry on "Jurassic Park" and the science behind the movie. (The foreward is by "Jurassic Park" author Michael Crichton.)
The encyclopedia comes out during what many people have dubbed "the new golden age of dinosaurs," Padian says.
"The last 20 years has seen a resurgence in the field," he says. "People have gone out to new places, or looked at old sites in new ways and for different things, and collected amazing fossils. The finds are changing how we think about dinosaurs."