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Currie, Philip J.
Illustrated by Jan Sovak Red Deer (Alta.), Red Deer College Press, 1991. 160pp, cloth, $32.95, ISBN 0-88995-078-4-2. Distributed by Raincoast Books.

Grades 12 and up/Ages 17 and up

Reviewed by Peter Croskery

Volume 20 Number 4
1992 September

According to the author, the earliest flying reptiles were not true dinosaurs but rather contemporaries of the dinosaurs. The Flying Dinosaurs is therefore an inappropriate title for this book, which attempts to review the earliest stages in the evolution of animal flight.

Evidence from the fossil record suggests that two distinct groups were the earliest creatures to attain flight. According to Currie, although pterosaurs were the first animals to attain true flight capabilities, it was the flying dinosaurs, which evolved later, that gave rise to today's birds.

"Reptiles took to the air 250 million years ago" and for a period of approximately 180 million years during the Mesozoic Period were highly successful flyers. In Currie's opinion, dinosaurs never became truly extinct, whereas pterosaurs did. Yesterday's dinosaurs remain with us today as today's birds.

Although the book appears to be a very thorough review of the known paleontological information, I found it awkward and confusing reading. Without a sincere interest in dinosaur evolution and some background in comparative anatomy, the average reader will find this book too technical.

The illustrative work of Jan Sovak is excellent. Full-page colour plates of the various species discussed help bring these first fliers alive. However, the illustrations are in a sense paradoxical.

Many are the artist's interpretation of a species that lived 100 million years ago and are based on recovered fossilized pieces, parts of skeletons. To help better appreciate the content and context of Currie's Flying Dinosaurs, readers would be well advised to first read several more introductory books on dinosaurs. It seems to me that it is important to understand what a dinosaur was before attempting to understand what it wasn't.

Peter Croskery is a freelance writer and former biologist in Grimsby, Ontario.

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