________________ CM . . . . Volume XII Number 21 . . . . June 23, 2006


Pachyrhinosaurus: The Mystery of the Horned Dinosaur. (Discoveries in Palaeontology).

Monique Keiran.
Victoria, BC: Heritage House, 2006.
56 pp., cloth, $24.95.
ISBN 1-894974-03-4.

Subject Heading:
Dinosaurs-Juvenile literature.

Grades 8 and up / Ages 13 and up.

Review by Gillian Richardson.

*** /4


The long bony headdresses that swept back over horned dinosaur necks are called frills. Resembling war bonnets, they are decorated with scallops, spikes, bumps and twisting horns. Each species had its own unique set of frill decorations: Palaeontologists use them to identify different kinds of horned dinosaurs. In 1986, when McCabe and Tanke explored the Pipestone Creek bonebed, Pachyrhinosaurus's frill was unknown. Scientists knew of only small fragments - not enough to show what the headdress looked like.

The bone McCabe found was one of the most sought-after parts of a Pachyrhinosaurus skeleton.

Its discovery was an exciting new beginning for a site first found more than a decade earlier by a local schoolteacher.

The Royal Tyrrell Museum of Palaeontology in Drumheller, AB, is a world-class facility devoted to dinosaurs. Its name on this book, along with the author's, assures the reader of accurate research and amazing details of yet another new fossil find in the bonebeds of the Canadian prairies. The book describes the discovery of rare horned dinosaur frill bones by a teacher/fossil hunter at Pipestone Creek, the follow-up investigation by science technicians from the Museum, collection of Pachyrhinosaurus bones, and their preparation and shipment to the Museum. It took three winters to assemble the skeleton, complete with the elusive skull that finally showed what the head decorations looked like. One section of the book is devoted to the process of creating a replica of the heavy skull. A total of eight years' work went into completing the skeleton of the Pipestone Creek Pachyrhinosaurus (thick-nose reptile) for display in 1994.
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     The story of the fossil discovery is accompanied by photos of the area, how the bones show up in their rocky resting places, and palaeontologists at work. The account of the actual work is supplemented by inserts with additional information about horned dinosaurs, the Pipestone Creek area, dinosaur graveyards, how fossils are formed, how palaeontologists go about their work, how evidence of dinosaur habits is pieced together and the rationale behind making artificial replicas of heavy bones for permanent display. As loaded with details as the Pipestone Creek bonebed was entangled with bones, these accounts required focused reading from dedicated dinosaur enthusiasts. They are presented alternately with inserts, several of which use a cartoon illustration showing, for example, horned dinosaurs teasing another about his lack of a nose horn, reptiles heading to a resort-like beach after a cold winter, dinosaurs considering snacking on others at a fancy restaurant and a family portrait in a picture frame. This illustrative style may appeal to the younger range of the target audience. It seemed a bit at odds with the dramatic realism of the rest of the book.

     As well, there is a six-part fictionalized account of the life of a single Pachyrhinosaurus herd and one young dinosaur in particular. Sophisticated readers can get their fix of dinosaur detail through the more straightforward factual portions, or they can indulge their fantasies in storytelling based on the complexity of information scientists are able to learn from the fossils.

     This book is clear evidence that amazing discoveries are part of everyday life for a palaeontologist. It will find a place in a library collection as the latest look at a most popular topic.

Highly Recommended.

A freelance writer and former teacher-librarian, Gillian Richardson lives in BC.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

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