An exploration of our Earth's ever-captivating fauna through musings on the bizarre side of Zoology, Cryptozoology, Paleontology, and Paleoanthropology

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

A Review of 'All Yesterdays', A "New Look" For Dinosaurs That I Hope Stays!

I have had the pleasure to receive a fantastic book this Christmas, named All Yesterdays: Unique and Speculative Views of Dinosaurs and Other Prehistoric Animals. This book features amazing artwork and excellent novel ideas by John Conway, C.M. Kosemen, and Dr. Darren Naish. With the danger of revealing too much of what is in this wonderful new book, here is a bit of a review.
The cover of All Yesterdays with its beautifully illustrated, tree-climbing ceratopsians
What I love about this book is that it combines beautiful "paleoart" with bizarre, yet totally possible ideas about the appearance and lifestyle of dinosaurs and other prehistoric animals (such as plesiosaurs and a giant, pterosaur-eating centipede). The authors reconstruct dinosaurs with seemingly odd behaviors, yet fully support these hypothetical portrayals with evidence from the modern natural world. They do the same with the appearance and integument of some of their dinosaurs, and point out that modern animals aren't always sleek and often have body parts hidden by layers of fatty skin or integument. Accompanying text helps us understand why the authors reconstructed the dinosaur (or other prehistoric animal) on that page in the way they did, and a skeletal drawing is also present.
As a warm-blooded predator, a Tyrannosaurus would actually spend a large amount of time sleeping while digesting a meal.

A Majungasaurus with a stunning display, spreading its arms out "in a manner completely unlike that of other large predatory dinosaurs".
One of my favorite aspects of the paleoart in this book is that the authors put plenty of interesting integument on their dinosaurs. These included Therizinosaurus that have massive bodies hidden by feathers, Triceratops with large spike-like bristles, and Heterodontosaurus which are covered in bristly "hairs" and porcupine-like quills! Interestingly, we are learning that such speculation is quite plausible. Not only does fossil evidence support the idea of theropods with body integument such as feathers, but we are now learning that many small ornithiscians had fuzzy bristles as well.  
The authors of 'All Yesterdays' don't reconstruct their Leaellynasaura as naked, lizard-like animals.....
But rather, they reconstruct Leaellynasaura as being perfectly adapted to life in a polar climate with a fluffy integument. Brilliant!
Therizinosaurus are portrayed in this book as elephant-sized mounds of feathers with gigantic claws.
To help enforce their claim that it is perfectly reasonable to reconstruct dinosaurs with bizarre behaviors or anatomy, the authors also dedicated a chapter to reconstructing modern animals as a future paleontologist might if they only had fossilized remains to go off of. Some of the results were a terrifying hairless spider monkey, a cow with skin so tight that its bones show, and birds with membranes instead of feathers on their wings. This chapter truly impacted my way of thinking, and surely justified the paleoart styles of these artists. It also supports the idea that many dinosaurs may have been much thicker-bodied with muscle, fat, and/or bountiful integument. This book has the ability to thrill the minds of readers, and to make them realize that dinosaurs were probably a lot more bizarre-looking and acting than we often see them depicted as! However, it also shows that dinosaurs weren't strange and alien monsters, but were regular animals which probably behaved and looked like many species of the modern day.
A reconstruction of a modern cat that is "shrink-wrapped" and represents how modern paleontologists often wrongly depict dinosaurs as very slim, with every bone feature visible through the skin.
All Yesterdays is a truly amazing book, which I would fervently recommend to anyone interested in the possible appearance and lifestyles of dinosaurs. The art contained in the book is not only beautiful, but rejuvenating for the animals depicted. Hopefully, All Yesterdays will help end the era of depicting unrealistically leathery-skinned and slim dinosaurs and will bring forth reconstructions of the reptiles with the fuzzy integument and fatty skin that real animals have. In my mind, All Yesterdays depicts dinosaurs more accurately than other resources which I have seen in that it recognizes the bizarre habits and appearances that many modern animals have and brings them to life in dinosaurs. If only Jurassic Park had depicted its Triceratops with huge protective spines, although the famed Tyrannosaurus rex would be boring as it would be sleeping throughout the movie after consuming the goat and lawyer.
A spiny Triceratops from All Yesterdays. A  specimen of this ceratopsian at the Houston Museum of Natural Science has preserved skin impressions which suggest that these animals actually did possess such bristles. 

 I seriously can't say enough about All Yesterdays, and I emphatically hope that you buy it and read this fabulous book. If you have an open mind and even a slim interest in dinosaurs, this book will change your mind about the way they looked and acted for the better.