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THE NEW DINOSAURS: An Alternate Evolution by Dougal Dixon (Fawcett/Columbine: $14.95, illustrated)

December 24, 1989|CHARLES SOLOMON

Paleontologist Dougal Dixon has created an alternative zoology, an assortment of animals that might have developed if the dinosaurs hadn't died out, but continued to evolve into what Darwin termed "forms most strange and most wonderful." He imagines such delightfully bizarre creatures as the Coconut Grab, a mollusk that climbs palm trees to find food; the Cribrum, a sort of four-footed flamingo, and the Taranter, a huge, shaggy, armadillo-like beast well suited to life on the wind-swept steppes. Unlike the improbable beasties that inhabit many science-fiction stories, Dixon's creatures conform to the principles of evolutionary biology and biomechanics: They're as well adapted to their environments as many real animals are. Both entertaining and instructive, "The New Dinosaurs" would make an excellent gift for anyone interested in natural history.

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