How to Build a Dinosaur: Extinction Doesn't Have to Be Forever
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How to Build a Dinosaur: Extinction Doesn't Have to Be Forever

3.68 of 5 stars 3.68  ·  rating details  ·  432 ratings  ·  65 reviews
In movies, in novels, in comic strips, and on television, we've all seen dinosaurs—or at least somebody's educated guess of what they would look like. But what if it were possible to build, or grow, a real dinosaur without finding ancient DNA? Jack Horner, the scientist who advised Steven Spielberg on the blockbuster film Jurassic Park and a pioneer in bringing paleontolog...more
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Published April 20th 2009 by Tantor Media (first published 2009)
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Joel Carlin
Book reviews, like online hotel reviews, are entirely biased by the reviewer's background. As a professor of evolutionary biology, I like to look over books that are both responsibly written, scientifically accurate and engaging for both the high school graduate and science graduate student.

For me, it gets two stars primarily for the third category: I just found the writing a little simplistic and lacking in detail. Generalizations can let you build up an exciting story, but the language just wa...more
Nick Gotch
Believe it or not, the title's no joke: the author really does want to bring back a dinosaur. Ok, maybe a superficially similar form, but the story really is about genetics, developmental biology, paleontology, and the like. The author's approach isn't like "Jurassic Park," rather, he has a different approach that makes a lot of sense.

It's definitely a great read even if there are quite a few off-topic tangents he seems to take. It's not so much a book about dinosaurs themselves, so don't expect...more
Terry
This is a stunning example of the book contradicting its title. "Extinction doesn't have to be forever" is a sexy proposition which is addressed in the 200 or so droll pages of what's essentially a condescending conversation. The author directly indicates in the pertinent sections that he is merely talking of atavisms rather than reconstructing a dino genome. Let me save you a shit ton of time:

1)Modern tech makes the recovery of proteins possible across long periods
2)The author hates creationist...more
bup
So much of this book is, "oh, people are going to be nervous about making a dinosaur out of a chicken," and "ethical considerations this," and "playing God that."

Stop pussy-footin', Horner! We want our dinosaur chicken, and we want it NOW!

We're not going to live forever, and neither are you. You already have people changing proteins in eggs and making chicken embryos with teeth and tails. Let 'em hatch!

Grant? You don't need a grant! You need a loan, from somebody who understands that a dinosaur...more
Ebster Davis
A few years ago I was waiting in a dentists office, I picked up a magazine and read an article about developmental evolution that could turn a chicken into a dinosaur. It was riviting. I looked forward to reading this book.

Now that I've read it, I'm a bit disenchanted. Most of this book doesn't deal with the chicken-dinosaur directly; and until I could see how each of the chapters progressively builds on the next one, it was hard to see what the author was talking about and how it related to de...more
Chuck
The biggest problem with this book is that Horner didn't really have enough material to fill a whole book, so he padded it. For example, he spent 40 pages of a 230 page book going over the geography and history of Eastern Montana from the time of the dinosaurs, through the first arrival of man, and down to the current day. That said, the last hundred pages or so are interesting. The true subject of the book is however not really on how to build a dinosaur. That's just the hook. It's really about...more
Ann Keller
Renowned paleontologist, Jack Horner, and James Gorman, deputy science editor of The New York Times, have written a profound book in How to Build A Dinosaur. Rather than zeroing in on ancient dinosaur DNA, Horner and his colleagues instead focus on evolutionary development, or “evo-devo”, as they term it.

We know that the embryos of multiple creatures develop in a similar fashion, for a time featuring arm and beg buds as well as tails. Assuming that dinosaurs evolved in a similar manner, Jack Hor...more
Todd Martin
In “How to Build a Dinosaur: Extinction Doesn't Have to Be Forever” noted paleontologist Jack Horner discusses the state of paleontological science and puts forth some interesting ideas about how it may be used to make further discoveries in the field.

Like with any cutting edge science, some of the discoveries he recounts have yet to be independently confirmed and gain universal and approval. All the same, the ideas are intriguing. Paleontology used to be dominated by bone hunters and comparati...more
Magila
crowd-sourcing has this right, a 3.5. half way between 3 and 4. the science was not intimidating (to a non-scientist). certainly it was detailed enough for biologists to enjoy. it's worth a read.

the places it fell short. first, there were a few points where the author diverged from the subject at hand to interject evolution commentary. it is necessary to provide some background, and explain where following genetic lines could simplify or complicate a microbiological cloning effort to bring back...more
Dave
Having heard Jack Horner lecture on his theories about the natural history of T. rex and Maiasuar and read his book 'Digging Dinosaurs' I may be predisposed to like this book. The book may seem dry to some with it's opening exposition about fossil hunting and discussion of combining paleontology with laboratory research with DNA. Horner confesses that the scenario supposed in 'Jurassic Park' is quite incredible as a means of recreating dinosaurs. Rather Horner recaps the evidence that birds are...more
Kayt
I thoroughly enjoyed Horner's latest, which deals with reverse evolution and other very cool and exciting things. Like fossilized hemoglobin, and cretaceous collagen, and developmental evolution that could (theoretically) produce a dinosaur from a chicken embryo.

I found the sections that deal more heavily with embryology a bit harder to follow, so the last quarter of the book definitely took longer to process than the first 3/4. That's okay. The theories are pretty groundbreaking, even though th...more
Mike
I found this book to be a fantastic read. The book has the feel of conversing with Jack Horner it's a little rambling at times but tends to stay around on some of the exciting developments for the future of paleontology. The science covered was detailed but not so in depth as to lose the reader. I think this was helped by the fact that Jack, as he mentions often, is not an evolutionary development biologist; he doesn't have the background to go too in depth. Still I found myself keeping my phone...more
Ted Hopkins
This proposal for an experiment, written for the lay reader, gives an enjoyable and satisfying read. The discussion draws upon knowledge in both palaeontology and molecular biology as applied in current research in the field of evolutionary developmental biology. These fields of science combined give better understanding of how changes which occur on a molecular level cause significant changes on a physical level. The discussion gives an intriguing overview of current understanding in these fiel...more
Nicholas Griffith
Although it starts off slow, the research behind this book is extraordinary. The new evolutionary field of evo-devo is coming up with surprising new insight as to how embryos develop. Very much ontogeny recapitulates phylogeny, it seems as though in many animals the embryo undergoes the transformation of it's genetic ancestors. In the case of a chicken, for a brief stage in the chicken's development it resembles something more like it's dinosaur ancestor. (In humans, the tadpole stage is probabl...more
Mo Tipton
Try as I might I couldn't bring myself to finish this one. Horner has an annoying tendency to digress...and digress and digress, and I never even made it to the "meat" of the book--the actual evo-devo material. In the first chapter, he blathers on about the Freemen, the Unabomber, Lewis and Clark, and buffalo, which, had I picked up a book on any one of those topics I suppose I would have been satisfied, but I wanted to read about frickin' dinosaurs. Granted, all of that blathering eventually le...more
Kin Guan
Got this book mainly for Dr Horner's signature... It is intriguing to listen to a paleontologist talking to you in a casual, conversational way about his research, and how he thinks the study of dinosaur fossils and of chicken embryo can solve the mystery of evolution. I like how he raises some issues in the field, such as the ethical and political concerns over the modification of embryos, yet was slightly disappointed by the shallow discussions. It has a very catchy title, yet does not deliver...more
Michelle Jones
I was looking through books in the library and was struck by this title. I had seen Jack Horner in a number of documentaries and had actually seen Horner's TED talk on "Dinochicken" see http://blog.ted.com/2011/06/07/buildi...

Overall, I found this book fascinating. The first chapter started a bit slow, but I found most of the book to have a lot of fascinating information on new palaeontological methods and ideas about dinosaurs. Toward the end of the book, it again started to lag a little talkin...more
Faz
I initially thumbed through this book at the bookstore and thought is was a combination between fantasy and science; a mixture of 'what if' combined with real world science. Fantasy it is not! This is a serious but easily digestible view into new though processes involving interrupting the proteins processes of DNA to persuade regression to once again evolve. While scientists these days can grow skin or some organs from cells of the same type of organ, this book goes further to explore the possi...more
Christopher Obert
This book is a very interesting book about the history and evolution of modern birds, namely the humble chicken. It is also about the history and development of what may be the most fascinating group of animals ever, the dinosaurs. The book covers the question of whether it is possible to create a clone of a dinosaur in the same way it is done in the movies; however maybe it is not a question of cloning, but biological reverse engineering, aka “reverse evolution.” I found the book well written a...more
JennEllen
I ordered this book after seeing a segment on 60 Minutes with Jack Horner and Mary Schweitzer about the research and the book, and it was well worth the read. It is written in a conversational tone, easily read by the lay person--but let's be realistic, there is a minimum level of nerdiness one needs to possess to even want to read this book in the first place. If you have that nerdiness though--be it a background in science or simply (like me) a residual fascination with dinosaurs that has carr...more
refgoddess
Accessible and humorously written, with nuggets of fascinating information on every page. If you want to know about genetic engineering in general, and dinosaurs in particular, this is a good place to start. Some of the other reviews are scathing about the science and the bias, but any book that tells me how to produce teeth in chickens is worth my time. And, I like it when science fiction enters the world of the laboratory. (This one has me remembering the STNG episode when the crew began de-ev...more
Jennifer
Excellent. Inspiring. Delightful. I laughed at some of the stories, though having met Paleontologists, I have no doubt that they are true. And I got caught up in the author's passion for the recreation of these creations. And now? Do I think it is a good idea to build a dinosaur? Well... not so much because I want a T-Rex in my backyard but the idea that the research may have medical applications... that intrigues me. Meanwhile, my sons are all fired up about the possibility of some day visiting...more
Jan
This was a very scientific book about the relationship of current DNA in us all, and that of dinosaurs. Humans have DNA that is almost identical to dinosaurs, and we still have the genes for many dinosaur traits, such as tails. Other genes in our DNA 'turn' off those genes and prevent us from developing the traits during our growth as embryos.

The author discusses how a few gene manipulations in a regular chicken would indeed build a dinosaur...
Matt
Oct 17, 2012 Matt rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Matt by: Craig Broccoli
Shelves: science, non-fiction
Awesome book! The author hopes and most likely will alter certain genes in the embryo of a chicken to recreate characteristics of ancient dinosaurs such as teeth, forelimbs, and a tail. I hope I live to see the day that they have created a real life nonavian dinosaur...People complain that its animal cruelty to tamper with chicken eggs and alter the genetics, do these people realize how many eggs we crack and eat every day?
Jack Stringer
This book opened my eyes to the possibilities of our world in our technology and i agree with a lot of his points and i especially like his point where he says "..., but as if we decide as a society that killing chickens is unethical, far more will have to change than us giving up an experiment." I mean if there was any question at all of this being ethical than that one statement just destroyed the entire defense.
Susan Bond
I read this book after seeing Jack Horner in person. He was so engaging, funny, insightful and interesting that I had to read the book. I'm not a scientist but have been a dinosaur enthusiast ever since I began teaching young children about them. The level of complexity was just right for me. While not as entertaining as the man himself, i found the book to be very enjoyable and very stimulating.
Amanda
Thought provoking and well written, Horner explores current scientific techniques and research with the ultimate goal of reverse engineering a non-avian dinosaur from a chicken. I wish he'd gone more into the science of things - it felt like every time he got close to describing the nitty gritty details, Horner shied away from it, maybe to make things more accessible for the general public.
Douglas Summers-Stay
Jack Horner (one of those paleontologists who seems to show up in a lot of science films and Discover articles) talks about his plan to genetically manipulate a chicken to turn it into something like a dinosaur. His two points seem to be that a) we would learn a lot about how structures are formed in the body and b) it would be pretty awesome, with the emphasis on b).
Amanda
This was a very interesting book with new ideas about reverse engineering evolutionary traits of the dinosaurs, using the modern descendants of dinosaurs, the birds. This would be a breakthrough in understanding evolution at the molecular level. The beginning and the end of the book are captivating, but the book drags on a bit about 2/3 through.
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“The worse the country, the more tortured it is by water and wind, the more broken and carved, the more it attracts fossil hunters, who depend on the planet to open itself to us. We can only scratch away at what natural forces have brought to the surface.” 2 likes
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