Scientists struggled to make sense of the creatures, and the sculptures were the first attempts to see them in real-life size. They were depicted as gigantic, mammal-like animals, heavy set and four-legged – a revolutionary idea that already envisioned dinosaurs as giant lizards. But it was just as wrong.
View of the Crystal Palace exhibition by London printer George Baxter, with Richard Owen’s fictional dinosaur reconstruction in the foreground. Credit: welcome collection
“This is the first dinosaur book where dinosaurs really look like they used to,” claims the author, who worked with paleoartist Bob Nichols to bring the creatures to life. “Every description is, as far as possible, justified by evidence. We tried to choose species that are well documented enough, so that in the text, I can explain what we know and why we know it.” Huh.”
Paleoartist Bob Nichols brought the creatures to life in Benton’s book, including on the cover shown here. Credit: Thames and Hudson
“I think we can say that feathers originated at least 100 million years ago, so at the root of the dinosaurs,” Benton said.
Based on the original at the Philadelphia Academy of Natural Sciences, a skeletal restoration of Hadrosaurus fowlkii, the first museum mount of a dinosaur that was, correctly, even upright. Credit: Smithsonian Institution Archives
Not everyone liked the idea that dinosaurs had feathers. Famously, the “Jurassic Park” franchise – which debuted in 1993 before the discovery of feathered dinosaur fossils – has consistently refused to include them in its recent films.
“They say they don’t want the T-Rex to look like a giant chicken. But that’s a pity,” Benton said.
Recently, Benton and his team at the University of Bristol in the UK have come up with a way to identify a dinosaur’s color pattern from fossils, by finding pigment structures embedded deep within fossil feathers. “We were the first to apply this method in 2010, so the book is mainly documenting studies from the past 10 years that looked at skin, scales and feathers in fossils — to get the color.”
That result is shown through the illustrations of the 15 creatures featured in the book – not only of dinosaurs but also of prehistoric birds, mammals and reptiles – adorned with vibrant skin patterns, an abundance of multicolored feathers, and some eye-catching shiny heads.
Looking at these creatures shows how much our knowledge of dinosaurs has improved, and how much it can still improve. “A few years ago, I thought we’d never know about dinosaur coloration, but now we do,” Benton said.
“Don’t draw boundaries, because sooner or later, a smart young man is going to say, ‘Hey, you guys, we can actually solve this.'”
“Dinosaurs: New Visions of a Lost World” is published by Thames & Hudson.
Add to Queue: Dino-Frenzy
If you want to know the full history of dinosaurs, look no further than this “Dinosaur Biography” by the world’s leading paleontologist, Steve Brusatte. The book chronicles the 200-million-year history of dinosaurs, from the Triassic, through the Jurassic and Cretaceous, when their rule ended through a mass extinction caused by a comet or asteroid. Described as an epic saga that reflects the modern workings of paleontology, it is based on recent research.
Produced by the venerable BBC Natural History Unit and broadcast by Discovery in the US, this classic documentary series had the distinction of being the most expensive documentary ever made when it launched in 1999. It won three Emmys, spawned two sequels, and featured dinosaurs. their natural habitat — in true documentary style — using a mix of computer graphics and animatronics. It was cutting edge for its time and still holds a lot of entertainment and educational value, although some of the science is now out of date.
This mix between paleontology and political drama is woven into Sue’s story, the largest and most complete T. Rex is the skeleton. After being discovered in South Dakota in 1990, the fossil became the center of a years-long legal battle over its ownership, prompting rifts between paleontologists, fossil collectors and governments who own the land. But fossils are found. Spoiler alert: The lawsuit is now on display at the Field Museum of Natural History in Chicago.
The go-to podcast for dinosaur lovers, “I Know Dino” is run by Garrett Kruger and Sabrina Ricci, a husband-and-wife team of dino enthusiasts. Each hour-long episode focuses on a single species, which is discussed and discovered in detail with the help of guests. The podcast, which started in 2016, is now approaching 400 episodes.
This Steven Spielberg classic is still the popular culture reference point for dinosaurs. This was the first film in which they were portrayed as smart, dynamic and fast moving creatures. (Who can forget the famous scene of T. rex fighting Velociraptors?) Although it was made almost 30 years ago, the film’s CGI is still under scrutiny. Scientific accuracy has waned over the years, but it’s still an entertaining film to watch, with milestone performances from Laura Dern, Sam Neill, and Jeff Goldblum.
Top image: Reconstruction of a psittacosaurus, an example that appears in the book “Dinosaurs: New Visions of a Lost World”. A fossil find for this creature includes preserved soft tissue, including the skin and an array of reed-like feathers on top of the tail.