The Tyrannosaur Chronicles by David Hone
Tyrannophile David Hume is a lucky man. Like me and every other five year old in the world, he is fascinated by dinosaurs, especially Tyrannosaurus rex. But unlike most of us, he has managed to do it for a living!
The Tyrannosaur Chronicles is a wonderful piece of popular science, bringing us up to date on what we know about the family of T. rex, the giant carnivores of the Cretaceous and before. And we know quite a bit. This is the real deal, covering what we have pieced together about their anatomy, physiology, behavior, and ecology.
We learn that this family lived all over the Earth, and is actually a family tree of dozens of species, many of them “normal” sized dinosaurs (only 2-3 meters, including tails). Overall, they were around for hundreds of millions of years. With this kind of time and space, it isn’t surprising that they are a diverse family.
We learn that most of them are hollow boned, like birds, so they aren’t as heavy as the might otherwise be. They also must have been quite fast growing and active, with good binocular vision and probably considerable smarts. They laid eggs, and may have tended their young for a while. They almost certainly hunted and ate hadrosaurs, as well as a long list of pretty much everything else. Many of the tyrant species had feathers!
Dr. Hone explains all this and more, presenting the evidence and reasoning behind these conclusions and inferences. Equally important, he is careful to explain what we don’t know, along with alternative hypotheses.
It’s called science. And it’s tres cool.
For instance, we don’t know much about how they reared their young. What kind of nests did they make? How many eggs did they lay in a clutch? Did they sit on the eggs? Did the young hang around and did the parents care for them? We simply don’t know. But Hume reviews cases from living animals, which offer realistic possible scenarios. Perhaps we will find some nests in the near future.
For that matter, we don’t really know what T. rex and Co. looked like. Did they have crests and feathers? Were they dull colored for camouflage, or bright for display? Were males and females somewhat different looking? How do you sex a T. rex? For that matter, how did these guys even do it? I mean, the huge tail is kind of in the way, no?
- David Hone, The Tyrannosaur Chronicles: The Biology of the Tyrant Dinosaurs, New York, Bloomsbury Sigma 2016.
Sunday Friday Book Reviews