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Literature / The New Dinosaurs: An Alternative Evolution

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A 1988 book, written by Scottish geologist Dougal Dixon about what life on world would be like if the meteor that killed the dinosaurs didn't hit the Earth. The book is a Spiritual Successor to Dougal's previous Speculative Biology book, After Man: A Zoology of the Future, and is presented in a very similar way. However, similar to his previous book, it suffers badly from the progress of science; its dinosaurs and other creatures more fanciful than realistic nowadays (even back in the day they weren't the most accurate dinosaurs). Even so, its illustrations and descriptions are very good, depicting these nonexistent animals as if they were real.


This book provides examples of:

  • Anachronism Stew:
    • For some reason, there are Megalosaurus in the present day. In Africa (Megalosaurus went extinct in the Middle Jurassic, - of Europe - long before its fellow dinosaurs died out). Megalosaurus was long used as wastebasket to contain various large theropods from throughout the Mesozoic, but this had mostly been sorted out by then.
    • The Whulk is a future pliosaur, but its group went extinct near the beginning of the Late Cretaceous.
  • Alternate History: The book starts with the premise that the dinosaurs never went extinct.
  • Armless Biped: The Gourmand, a highly-derived future tyrannosaur which inhabits the South American pampas. Some pterosaurs, like the Kloon, also evolved to be flightless herbivores with highly atrofied wings, evoking this trope.
  • Artistic License – Biology: Similar to Dixon's other work, After Man: A Zoology of the Future. The Glub and the Watergulp in particular are fully aquatic hypsilophodonts that reproduce viviparously. While certain reptiles like a few snake species are known to give birth this way, no archosaurs, extinct or living, have been known to reproduce in this manner, and all of them exclusively lay eggs.
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  • Everything Is Better With Dinosaurs: This is basically the entire reason this book exists.
  • Fantastic Fauna Counterpart: Many of the book's imaginary animals are really easily seen to be based on real animals. The Lank are giraffe-like pterosaurs (even with giraffe colours), Plungers are penguin-pterosaurs, Tubb are koala-dinosaurs (yes, they live in Australia), Watergulps are manatee-dinosaurs, Pangaloons are, well, pangolin-dinosaurs and the Gestalt are mole rat-dinosaurs to name a few.
  • Harping on About Harpies: The Harridan, a condor-like pterosaur from the Andes, brings this trope to mind with its appeareance and slightly upright stance. its scientific name, Harpyia latala, is even a straight reference to harpies. Its main hunting method consists of snatching its unsuspecting prey from the ground below, likely referencing harpies snatching away food from mortals to punish them for their misdeeds.
  • Horn Attack: The Monocorn is a descendant of ceratopsians with a huge, single horn on its nose that is native to the Great Plains. It is quite similar to its ancestors in habits and appeareance.
  • More Teeth than the Osmond Family: The Cutlastooth is a saber-toothed maniraptoran which is basically a dinosaurian counterpart of Smilodon. The aquatic whulk also has thousands of tiny sharp teeth which allow it to filter the plankton it eats.
  • Kraken and Leviathan: The Kraken is portrayed as a gigantic-sized descendant of Ammonites with a large shell that is usually seen from the water surface, often serving as a perching spot for birds and pterosaurs. While it doesn't target human ships, it's still a free-drifting predator that uses its long, skinny tentacles as a trap for microscopic food and fishes. Certain plesiosaurs can kill it, however.
    • On the Leviathan side there's the Whulk, a gargantuan-sized descendant of pliosaurs that evolved to fulfill the same role as baleen whales, being a filter-feeder.
  • Ptero Soarer:
    • The book's pterosaurs are among the worst to ever appear anywhere (even for their time, they were bad), it seems that Dougal basically just said "screw it" and gave the pterosaurs any features he thought were cool, but couldn't be given to dinosaurs. American paleontologist Greg Paul even called him out on this. The Kloon, a small, wingless and flightless herbivore, is particularly infamous despite its arguably adorable design.
    • Although it should be noted, that at the time pterosaur science was in its infancy (little is still known about them).
  • Raptor Attack: As this was written before Jurassic Park, dromaeosaurs are given little coverage, with only two species shown, the Springe and the Northclaw. On the bright side, it is probably the first piece of media to depict them with down.
  • Red Right Hand: The Northclaw has, fittingly enough, an enlarged claw on its right arm which it uses to deal the killing blow to its prey.
  • Seldom-Seen Species: The Paraso is a future pterosaur whose appeareance and hunting technique is based on the Black heron. The same aplies to dromaeosaurs, aka raptors, as this was written before Jurassic Park and therefore they hadn't achieved the high levels of popularity they enjoy now. Only two future descendants of them, the Springe and the Northclaw, are depicted. There are still plenty of future maniraptorans in the book.
    • The dubious genus Fulgurotherium, an Australian hypsilophodont with very scarce remains, is cited in the book as being the precursor to three of its creatures, the arboreal Crackbeak, the panda-like Taddey and the koala-like Tubb.
  • Scary Teeth: The Cutlasstooth, seen in the book's cover, a bipedal, pack-hunting monstrosity with a head reminiscent of a Dunkleosteus. There's a good reason it earned that name.
  • Speculative Biology: One of the most famous examples.
  • Stock Animal Behavior: The aptly named Birdsnatcher is a species of plesiosaur that specializes in snatching pterosaurs out of the sky...even though that is physcially impossible in real life.
  • Tyrannosaurus rex: Subverted, at least in the traditional sense. The only tyrannosaur shown is the Gourmand, a massive, sluggish scavenger.


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