Tuesday 2 July 2013

Praise for Pterosaurs: Natural History, Evolution, Anatomy

Before there were pterosaur fossils, there were rotting pterosaur corpses. This here is the rotting skull of Dsungaripterus weii, one of the largest dsungaripteroid pterosaurs known. His eye socket seems particularly interesting for some reason. Full, uncropped version of this painting, from Witton (2013).
Time's been a bit short for the last week, which means I'm falling behind my ideal blogging frequency. What better way to catch up, then, than to have some others write a post for me? Pterosaurs: Natural History, Evolution, Anatomy has been released in the wilds for several weeks now, which means that reviews are starting to trickle in. I'm happy to say that all legitimate reviews of the book have come up very well indeed, and there's praise all around. But you don't have to take my word for it: summary statements and links to reviews are provided below, along with some additional artwork from the book, just for fun. In case you missed it, an overview of Pterosaurs content is provided here and via the shiny new Pterosaurs widget on the top right of the page. The nice folks at Princeton have also recently released samples of 12 double-page spreads of the book, so be sure to check those out if you've not seen a copy yet. Kindle and dead-tree versions of the book can be ordered from Amazon. On to the review summaries!
Witton’s combination of style and substance makes Pterosaurs a true treasure and an absolute must for anyone curious about the extinct flyers... If you’re truly invested in learning about pterosaurs, Witton’s book is a wealth of information that will be of great use to both specialists and curious general readers.
Brian Switek, Laelaps (National Geographic Phenomena)
This really is the ultimate guide to pterosaurs, providing us with a richer view of pterosaur diversity and behaviour than allowed in the two previous great volumes on the group (Wellnhofer 1991, Unwin 2005) and containing a substantial amount of review and analysis of pterosaur ecology and functional morphology.
Darren Naish, Tetrapod Zoology (Scientific American blog network)
Whatever the intent of the author, the book does succeed at a number of levels. While probably a tricky read for those very unfamiliar with fossils, it should be easily accessible for anyone with a passing interest in palaeo as well as providing a solid review of the whole of the Pterosauria that’ll be genuinely useful for researchers for many years. I’m sure I’ll be typing “Witton, (2013) stated….” quite a lot in the future and that, if anything, should be a good measure of how I rate this as a scientific text. Now go buy a copy and read it, it really is very good. 
Dave Hone, Pterosaur.Net
This book is both academically interesting and truly fun to read. That is a difficult balance to reach, but Witton does an excellent job of it by using a lighthearted, informal writing style in combination with a well-referenced, serious scientific review. An invaluable reference.
Michael Habib, endorsement at Princeton University Press 
(Mike's summary response as referee to the book text)   

Thalassodromeus manufacturing pterosaur feeding traces, which are known from a number of pterosaur tracksites. Was Thalassodromeus always this placid? Maybe not, according to imagery at this post. From Witton (2013). 

This book does a good job of summarizing several of the diverse arguments that fly — pardon me — around ...Witton walks a fine line between presenting a technical review and providing an introductory text for students unfamiliar with the group in question or students unfamiliar with scientific discourse at all. ... Recommended? Yes, with kudos.
Jaime Headden, The Bite Stuff 
Mark... presents the uncertainties of science but never shies away from making his opinion clear. [He] respects the complexities [of scientific writing] without allowing them to clump up the text. ... Mark isn’t the craftiest of illustrators, but I wouldn’t change a single of his drawings for any pile of slickness. Mark understands illustration, and he illustrates. ...  I can wholeheartedly recommend the book already."
David Mass, DRIP 
PTEROSAURS would make an excellent addition to any reference collection and especially that of an advanced (adult or young adult) lay-reader.
Greg Leitich Smith, GSL BLog 
I can tell you that it is not only a fascinating bit of text, its illustrations will leave you gaping in awestruck amazement.
John E. Riutta, The Well-read Naturalist   
I thoroughly enjoyed this book. Witton's style is rather informal, but his coverage of the subject is academically rigorous, and his excellent illustrations convey both his knowledge of and passion for his subject. It tells a great story of the history of extraordinary animals, and should appeal to anyone interested in science, let alone palaeontology. It is worth its cover prices for the illustrations alone, many of which are the work of the author and presented with a quirky sense of humour.
Richard Forest,  Amazon.co.uk book review

Just how do you make a pterodactyloid pterosaur? Follow these instructions, bake for an undisclosed number of millions
of  years, and viola! Preondactylus, Darwinopterus and Pterodactylus skeletals from Witton (2013).

Thanks very much to those who've taken time to review Pterosaurs or sing its praises online in blog comments and social media. An additional big thanks to those who've personally written to me to express their satisfaction with the book. Hammy as it is to say, it's really great to hear that so many people like it.

Next time (hopefully very soon): mummified pterosaurs (promise number 3 for that one) and the most tenacious of all proposed pterosaur habits.

    • Witton, M. P. 2013. Pterosaurs: Natural History, Evolution, Anatomy. Princeton University Press.


    1. I love the skull painting! What genus is that cute little scavenger pterosaur?

      1. Thanks Emily. It's not any genus in particular, instead being a fairly generic neonate azhdarchoid. The probable tapejarid Nemicolopterus (likely a baby Sinopterus rather than a distinct genus) provided a lot of proportional details, but I didn't make much effort to make it look like a specific species. I imagine baby azhdarchoids all looked pretty similar when they first left their eggs, and especially when they're as far away as the little chap in that painting.

    2. I have already finished my book, this is truly a must-read for all Mesozoïc freaks.

      One of my favorite painting is the azhdarchids we see from above, walking along the beach.

      Congrats to you, Dr Witton.


    3. First of all I would like to compliment you for this huge success you are receiving.
      Second, I bought your book and let me say that it is an amazing one. It truly is. I read it all at once and I was completely satisfied: it's so uncommon to read something like "Pterosaurs" lately, and you've done an outstanding job.
      And all the people you've cited here are damn right: this is a recommended and fascinating text indeed.

      I put up too a 'review' on my blog; of course I'm not a big name as any of the experts you've listed, but I would be honoured if you want to read it when you'll have the time (it's in italian, but you can translate it with the right option in the right bar).

      Still, congrats to you, mr. Witton

    4. Sorry, forgot the link: http://ktboundary-smnt2000.blogspot.it/2013/07/pterosaurs-natural-history-evolution.html

    5. I hope you don't mind, but there's just 1 little nit-pick I forgot to ask about in your previous PTEROSAURS post: Isn't the book's subtitle just a little redundant? I mean, IIRC, aren't one's evolution & anatomy aspects of one's Natural History? If not, then please correct me. Many thanks in advance.