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Posted by W von Papinešu on March 22, 2003 at 09:40:31:
NEW SCIENTIST (UK) 22 March 03 King of the Crocodylians: The paleobiology of Deinosuchus - David Schwimmer - $45 Indiana University Press (Jeff Hecht)
Crocodiles are remarkably durable beasts. They have been around since the days of their close cousins, the dinosaurs, and were the largest animals to survive the asteroid impact 65 million years ago. Their basic design hasn't changed much: the long, low predators that pounce on pet poodles that stray too close to south Florida canals look much like their distant relations that preyed on careless dinosaurs.
David Schwimmer takes a close look at the biggest known member of the family, Deinosuchus, which lived in North America about 80 million years ago. Nobody has found a complete skeleton, but the huge skulls and massive isolated bones indicate it stretched 12 metres and weighed 8.5 tonnes. That puts it in the same size class as the biggest predatory dinosaurs, including Tyrannosaurus rex.
Turtles may have been its favourite dish, but Deinosuchus was big and strong enough to go for dinosaurs its own size. Schwimmer has documented its diet by finding dinosaur bones that show teeth marks that match those of Deinosuchus.
Big, fierce animals are fun to read about, but the book offers much more. Schwimmer tells the story of the research, and puts the giant into its ecological and evolutionary context. Deinosuchus isn't a true crocodile, he explains, but part of the broader group of crocodylians that includes modern alligators and gharials, and their extinct kin. Both thorough and accessible - no easy task - the book opens a wonderful window onto a vanished world. A winner.
Dear Crocs ... and their keepers: I realise that this is not quite 'press', but with your indulgence, when a major sci-periodical has a review of something in your field, it might end up here. I hope that it's not 'advertising' (I'll check with Jeff when I finish here), since I have no stake in the item and I'm trying to offer the 'review' more than I am the actual item. Cheers, Wes