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The Bone Museum: Travels in the Lost World of Dinosaurs and Birds

by Wayne Grady

Old dinosaurs never die, they just evolve into something else,” might make a good motto for many of today’s paleontologists. Going beyond the strict boundaries of the all-the-dinosaurs-were-killed-by-a-meteorite theory, cutting-edge paleontologists now believe that a few dinosaurs escaped extinction by literally taking to the air – evolving into today’s birds. In The Bone Museum, science writer Wayne Grady travels with Phil Currie, the leading exponent of the dinosaur-bird link, as he seeks out evidence for this controversial theory.

Readers looking to be in on the next big find, the “missing link” between dinosaurs and birds, will be, if not disappointed, certainly surprised by the paths The Bone Museum follows. Grady’s first stop is Patagonia, the isolated Argentinian province that has haunted the imagination of naturalists and travel writers since the 16th century. Fellow expedition members arrive late, equipment is impounded by customs officials, and the whole endeavour is delayed by a torrential rainstorm. Grady spends a lot of time in his hotel room reflecting on the unravelling mysteries of evolution before finally setting off to an isolated river valley that contains thousands of dinosaur skeletons.

All of this would be quite tedious if Grady were not such an excellent writer. Though the “big find” never actually occurs, Grady inducts the reader into the inner sanctum of paleontological inquiry, where eccentric scientists grapple with scant clues scattered across millions of years. His lively, at times poetic, descriptions of the landscapes and people he encounters along the way, and his ability to synthesize complex scientific ideas, make him the perfect intermediary between dinosaur hunters and the general reader.