All Yesterdays: Unique and Speculative Views of Dinosaurs and Other Prehistoric Animals By John Conway

Man this basically felt like Hipster Dinosaur Artist: The Anthology. I picked it up expecting, like, neat alternative/speculative reconstructions of dinos, I got like three of them, and other than that got Well everyone draws T-rex charging at prey and roaring all the time, whereas he probably didn't do that very often, so here we drew him sleeping and Well dinsoaurs might have rolled in mud and such to disguise themselves and lay in ambush so here's a dinosaur covered in mud.

And then some just hilariously exaggerated modern examples. 2/10 would not waste $8 on again. All Yesterdays: Unique and Speculative Views of Dinosaurs and Other Prehistoric Animals I found out about this book through a blog, Love in the Time of Chasmosaurs, which talks about dinosaurs and paleoart (artistic renderings of prehistoric animals), and how our pictorial representations of dinosaurs have changed over the years as we have learned more about them. The blog authors really gushed about this book, so I decided to ask for it for Christmas and give it a try.

It turned out to be one of the most interesting books about dinosaurs that I've read in quite awhile.

The idea of All Yesterdays is to explore the fact that, as far as we have come in our knowledge about dinosaurs and other prehistoric animals, there is still a lot that we do not know, and a lot that we cannot know. There are aspects of physical bodies that are never preserved in the fossil record, for example. Animal behaviors, also, are something that we may catch occasional glimpses of in the fossil record, but if the range of animal behavior today is any good indication (and there is no reason it wouldn't be), then we are missing a vast array of unique, interesting, or possibly downright weird dinosaur behavior because such things do not leave traces for us to find tens or hundreds of millions of years later.

The point of this discussion, however, is to set the stage for the book's artists, who go on to depict dinosaurs in unusual ways. In some cases, this involves more imaginative depictions of dinosaurs' bodies with color and extra padding or spines or other things that we don't have direct evidence for, but that seem plausible given the range of such things on animals today. Our common depictions of dinosaurs tend to adhere very closely to skeletal outlines; even fleshed out with well-proportioned muscles and skin, these depictions are probably not what dinosaurs actually looked like. There are few living animals whose full bodies (with all the organs/muscles/flesh/fur/feather/spines/scales/etc. included) that really look much like their skeletons - why would dinosaurs have not had all that extra stuff too? Unfotunately a lot of that is the stuff that doesn't get preserved as fossils, so it is up to us and our imaginations to fill in the missing parts.

Other images in the book depict dinosaurs engaging in behaviors that seem unlikely or uncommon; Protoceratops climbing trees, for instance (as the book points out, goats climb trees sometimes, even though they aren't designed for it - why not protoceratops?), T.Rex sleeping, or Camarasaurus rolling in the mud. Things that we don't usually think about dinosaurs doing, but that they probably did do - or at least, that they did some other but equally weird thing that we don't know about.

The book finishes with a section title All Todays, which picks up on the question of animal depictions based solely on skeletal remains by taking the skeletons of modern animals and imagining how paleoartists of the future might depict them if they lacked all knowledge of the animals in question except the skeletons. This was a really intriguing exercise, and I liked this part of the book just as much as the part about dinosaurs (though I don't think I'll ever look quite the same way at cats, swans or baboons again).

I think my favorite aspect of this book is how imaginative it is. It definitely involves a lot of speculation, but it is speculation with knowledge and reasons to back it up. The artists and authors are clear that the possibilities that they are depicting are just that: possibilities. The truth may in fact have been even more wonderful and bizarre than we can imagine. It was wonderful to read a book that gave it a try, while building off the foundation of things that we do know about dinosaurs. (Parenthetically, I will add that this is probably one of the main reasons that I personally like Raptor Red so much; it had a similar element of imaginative speculation based in good paleontology.)

As All Yesterdays indicates, there is a lot that we know we don't know about dinosaurs and other prehistoric animals, and there's probably also plenty that we don't even know we don't know about them. But that leaves the field for some grounded speculation wide open, and if this book is any indication, the possibilities in that realm are numerous, intriguing and delightful. All Yesterdays: Unique and Speculative Views of Dinosaurs and Other Prehistoric Animals When it comes to reconstructing long-extinct animals no human has ever laid eyes upon, our best guesses may be wildly wrong. This very cool book collects speculative artwork depicting a variety of prehistoric creatures in ways that are unexpected but plausible--maybe some were covered in quills, for example. And the section that imagines modern animals reconstructed from some future fossil record is hilarious--I especially liked the terrifying, reptilian house cat. All Yesterdays: Unique and Speculative Views of Dinosaurs and Other Prehistoric Animals I remember fondly my encyclopedia of dinosaurs -- actually, a succession of them, with increasing sophistication, that I owned over the years. Those books gleefully explained how people had thought of dinosaurs as plodding and stupid, but now realized they may have been warmblooded and fast moving. There was little hint that dinosaurs would soon be seen as close kin to birds, with many species showing evidence of feathers. All this preamble to say what a pleasure it was to read this short, light book of illustrations highlighting how real dinosaurs might have deviated from their standard depiction -- and closing with a similar treatment of modern animals, seen via fossils through some far-future lens. The illustrations are more typical of children's books than field guides, favoring imagination over precision; in contrast, the text (while deftly and elegantly written) is far beyond the reading level of most pre-teens. This makes the book's target market slightly difficult to gauge. Whoever that market is, it evidently includes me. All Yesterdays: Unique and Speculative Views of Dinosaurs and Other Prehistoric Animals The book is sooooo imaginative!!! When dinosaurs are tremendously inspiring and evocative..often times when we reconstruct an extinct animal solely on skeleton structures our best guess could be farthest from requires interpretation, assumptions and mostly guesswork.but they become part of the subculture, often times popular media can be so reluctant to modify its existing beliefs like feathered dinosaurs the ferocious T-Rex they show us could be a chubby colourful feathery being. And many more

The thing that makes ALL YESTERDAYS really stand are the kindling illustrations, but the writing is on point too... Recommended for artists and paleoanthropology enthusiasts All Yesterdays: Unique and Speculative Views of Dinosaurs and Other Prehistoric Animals

All Yesterdays is a book about the way we see dinosaurs and other prehistoric animals. Lavishly illustrated with over sixty original artworks, All Yesterdays aims to challenge our notions of how prehistoric animals looked and behaved. As a critical exploration of palaeontological art, All Yesterdays asks questions about what is probable, what is possible, and what is commonly ignored.

Written by palaeozoologist Darren Naish, and palaeontological artists John Conway and C.M. Kosemen, All Yesterdays is scientifically rigorous and artistically imaginative in its approach to fossils of the past - and those of the future. All Yesterdays: Unique and Speculative Views of Dinosaurs and Other Prehistoric Animals

This relatively thin volume of speculative art makes a solid argument: we’re almost certainly imagining dinosaurs incorrectly. Even with all the new information and theories about dinosaurs that have come about in the past 40-50 years, we’re probably still drawing them wrong.

In my lifetime dinosaurs have gone from lumbering cold-blooded reptiles to swift warm-blooded animals, many of whom were covered with feathers, fuzz or quills. Jurassic Park came out 25 years ago and every single dino in that movie is probably rendered inaccurately. The 2015 sequel, Jurassic World, is not a good movie, but it does have one awesome scene where the new owner confronts Dr. Wu in the lab:

Simon Masrani: You are to cease all activities here immediately.
Henry Wu: You are acting like we are engaged in some kind of mad science. But we are doing what we have done from the beginning. Nothing in Jurassic World is natural. We have always filled gaps in the genome with the DNA of other animals. And, if their genetic code was pure, many of them would look quite different. But you didn't ask for reality. You asked for more TEETH!

I love that scene. It manages to redeem the inaccuracies of the franchise by showing that they never intended to recreate actual dinosaurs, just to give the audience what they expected dinosaurs to look like. (It also serves as a metacommentary on movies in general, because no film ever depicts anything realistically. Even movies don’t get making movies right, and all they have to do is literally look around at what they’re doing.)

So goes a lot of paleoart, where artists merely imitate what they’ve seen from earlier artists, giving the audience what they expect.

But the authors point out that even artists who try to be more up to date in their dino representations still err on the side of what’s already been done. Dinosaur art tends to show the creatures shrink-wrapped, showing off their muscles as if they are all body builders flexing for our amusement. In many cases they even show the underlying bone structure. That’s always bothered me because lizards and alligators don’t look like that, and every other animal that looks skeletal is grievously ill.

Conway, Naish and Kosemen call that out in a very cool way: they reimagine modern animals drawn in the style typical of paleoartists. Their renditions of hippos, elephants, swans, cats and more are by turns hilarious and horrifying, because we know what the real animal looks like. That serves to underscore how they’ve reimagined dinosaurs, departing radically from the usual depictions, and it does lend credence to their point.

Once it was discovered that most dinosaurs had feathers, even the mighty carnosaurs, it made me wonder why small, birdlike dinosaurs weren’t covered with feathers. Oviraptor is a case in point. The name means “egg thief” but we now know that the clutch of eggs it was found on top of was its own. It wasn’t eating them as was assumed, it was protecting them from whatever calamity buried them all alive. So the art changed from a predator snatching eggs to a mother brooding them. Yet it still is drawn like a lizard, when it looks like a plucked chicken. I think it should be covered in feathers, looking more like archaeopteryx sitting hen-like on its eggs. Good luck finding many pictures like that.

All in all this is a cool little book. There are a couple times where the art is lost in the valley between pages (seriously designers, why do you do that? Have you guys never seen a book?!) but overall the reimagining of dinosaurs is really amazing. All Yesterdays: Unique and Speculative Views of Dinosaurs and Other Prehistoric Animals Fun, but probably mostly of interest for dinosaur buffs. While the artwork is imaginative, it isn't up to the quality that I expected. All Yesterdays: Unique and Speculative Views of Dinosaurs and Other Prehistoric Animals A lovely little art book depicting dinosaurs, and living animals as you've never seen them before. All the work is based on scientifically plausible possibilities, even though much of it can never be proved or disproved. Every illustration comes with accompanying text and at least one reference to the relevant scientific evidence.

The first two thirds or so of the book is the dinosaur part. Some of them are pictures of dinosaurs doing things that nobody ever draws them doing, despite the fact that they must have done, or at least that similar modern animals also do. Others are more speculative, building on what we don't know about their soft anatomy. It's hard to pick out favourites, but the therizinosaurs and Laellynasaura are a couple that stand out for me.

The remaining third covers modern, living animals. The twist here is that they are reconstructed from their skeletons alone, using the same techniques that we use today for dinosaurs, and accompanied by appropriate text. Much of it is hilarious: A solitary manatee, grazing in its mountain home. We only know the skull of this enigmatic herbivore. And much of it, of course, is cautionary...

A fascinating, and beautifully illustrated guide to what might have been, or that we can't prove wasn't. And, implicitly, an important challenge to today's palaeoartists. Palaeoart has evolved before, and perhaps its time for it shake off old assumptions, and do so again. All Yesterdays: Unique and Speculative Views of Dinosaurs and Other Prehistoric Animals This is awesome. It's a little short, but it's well worth reading. The book is essentially a critique of pop culture's (and even certain scientific) constants when it comes to portraying dinosaurs, and opens up theories and suggestions for how they might have actually behaved or appeared as actual animals. Scientific fact is spread liberally throughout, but the book focuses on what we can't know about dinosaurs, such as their muscle mass, coloration, feather arrangements, behaviors, etc--and challenges the reader to open their minds to new possibilities, to give dinosaurs a more realistic edge, than to just accept whatever pop culture has to feed them. For example, many carnivorous dinosaurs are portrayed as being vicious and constantly hunting and violent, and are rarely shown as playful or restful creatures. However, modern carnivores, such as lions and wolves, are known for being social and having lives beyond just being killers, so why not portray dinosaurs that way as well? My example is very simplified--the book goes into more scientific and biological-behavioral reasoning for its suggestions, acknowledges that it might be seen as heretical or silly, but just goes with it. The illustrations are simple but effective and often very inspiring. Definitely a fun and different way to look at some very interesting creatures! All Yesterdays: Unique and Speculative Views of Dinosaurs and Other Prehistoric Animals This book is so damn cool. Like most boys, I grew up with a(n) (un)healthy obsession with dinosaurs. I seriously felt like I was 6 years old again, learning about dinosaurs for the first time.

This book encourages us to throw out our old notions of what dinosaurs looked like or how they acted. If we look back at what we know, or thought we knew, about dinosaurs and other prehistoric creatures, we'd realize how little we actually did know. Here, they've reinvented some past assumptions. Additionally, behavior is often times a an assumption based on evidence available. In 65 million years, would anyone have any way of knowing the elaborate mating rituals of bower birds?

Very cool book. Worth spending a few hours perusing. All Yesterdays: Unique and Speculative Views of Dinosaurs and Other Prehistoric Animals

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