Australian Dinosaur Books

The following books contain information about Australian dinosaurs. All reviews are my own unless otherwise stated. Many of these books can be ordered from the Monash University Science Centre, in Melbourne, Australia. Proceeds go towards the funding of Australian Palaeontological research.

For those of you outside the Australasian region you can search for the following titles at on-line book stores such as Amazon books or Barnes and Noble.

Diggin up Deep Time

Digging up Deep Time

Paul Willis and Abbie Thomas
Published 2005. ABC Books & Audio / BBC Audio Australia

Australia is home to some of the world's earliest and most unique fossil finds. By investigating each important fossil site in Australia, Paul Willis builds a picture of Australia's earliest prehistory. As well as describing the fascinating natural history of this country, the authors recount the rollicking stories of our dinosaur hunters competing to find the most important fossils and to protect their discoveries.

Available from the ABC Shop in Australia, or via Allen & Unwin.

century Australian dinos

A Century of Australian Dinosaurs

Patricia Vickers-Rich and Thomas H.Rich.
Published 2003. Joint publication -Queen Victoria Museum (Tasmania) & Monash Science Centre (Victoria)

Cover: Actual road sign near Dinosaur Cove, Victoria

On the 7th of May 1903, William H.Ferguson discovered the first dinosaur bone from Australia; a toe bone of a small theropod dating back to 115 million years ago. Ferguson wasn't even looking for dinosaurs. He was prospecting for coal along the Victorian coast when he made the find, and sent the 52mm bone (as well as an ancient lungfish tooth-plate) to England to be analysed, where it was identified as a specimen of 'megalosaurus'.

This book commemorates the 100th anniversary of Ferguson's find, and looks at the subsequent hundred years of dinosaur discoveries in Australia.

See the Queen Victoria Museum & Art Gallery in Tasmania for availability. Also available from the Monash Science Centre in Victoria.

Dinosaurs of Darkness

Dinosaurs of Darkness: Life of the Past

Patricia Vickers-Rich and Thomas H.Rich. Published 2000. Indiana University Press.
ISBN 0 2533 3773 9

Cover: Hypsilophodontids under an auroral polar sky, with Timimus hybernating in the foreground, by Peter Trusler

Description by

Dinosaurs of Darkness opens a doorway to a fascinating former world which existed in Australia more than 100 million years ago - when it was a polar region joined to Antarctica and plunged into darkness much of the year. The way we have come to know about this lost world - so different from any that exists on Earth today - makes for a fascinating story. The authors, who played crucial roles in this discovery, describe their efforts to collect the fossils indispensable to our knowledge of this realm and the laboratory work that unlocked their secrets. Dinosaurs of Darkness is an intriguing personal account of the way scientific research is actually conducted and how hard it is to mine the knowledge of this remarkable life of the past.

Wildlife Gondwana cover

Wildlife of Gondwana. Dinosaurs and Other Vertebrates from the Ancient Supercontinent.

Second Edition
Patricia Vickers-Rich and Thomas H.Rich. Published 1999. Indiana University Press
ISBN 0 2533 3643 0

Cover: The giant monitor lizard Megalania prisca attacking the flightless bird Genyornis newtoni, by Peter Trusler

Probably the best volume on Gondwanan fauna yet produced. It is the "big brother" after which Australia's Lost World seems to have been modeled, with hundreds of colour photographs of fossil vertebrates (and a few invertebrates) from throughout the history of Gondwana. The fauna are mostly from Australia but there is also a significant African and South American component. The book includes a huge bibliography, as well as a systematic, geographic and geologic index of all the Australasian pre-Holocene fauna known at the time of publication (fish, amphibians, reptiles, birds and mammals).

This is the second edition of the volume. Originally published in Australia in 1993, this corrected and augmented edition contains new material on fossil discoveries in India and Australia.

The companion volume, The Greening of Gondwana (Mary E.White 1993, ISBN 0 7301 0390 0) covers the evolution of Gondwana's plant life over the same period.

Oz & NZ cover

Dinosaurs of Australia and New Zealand, and other animals of the Mesozoic Era

Dr John A.Long. Published 1998, University of New South Wales Press
ISBN 0 86840 448 9

Cover: A polar Allosaurus, by Tony Windberg

Review by Harvard University Press, June 3rd 1998:

In this first comprehensive account of Mesozoic vertebrates from New Zealand and Australia, John Long shows that, while the fossil record from the region can be sparse and fragmentary, finds from such sites as Dinosaur Cove, Coober Pedy, Lightning Ridge, and the fossil trackways at Broome offer new and occasionally startling evidence that has the potential to challenge current views. Longís up-to-date coverage includes the discovery in late 1996 of a new shrew-like mammal, Ausktribosphenos nyktos.

Entries on individual fauna begin with a brief introduction, written to be accessible to the armchair paleontologist, that describes the prevailing climate and habitat during the relevant geological time period, followed by more technical information aimed at specialists, including type characteristics, location and other details about the specimenís discovery. "Dinosaurs of Australia and New Zealand" is profusely illustrated with photographs of the fossils, maps, and newly commissioned life restorations by some of the leading dinosaur illustrators from Australia and the United States: Peter Schouten, Tony Windberg, Bill Stout, and Mike Skrepnick.

Encyc. of Dinosaurs

Encyclopaedia of Dinosaurs

Edited by Philip J.Currie and Kevin Padian. Published 1997, Academic Press.
ISBN 0 12226 810 5

Cover: Sinosauropteryx prima, by Michael Skrepnick

I haven't had a chance to look at the book myself, but apparently it contains a chapter on Australasian dinosaurs, and an article on dinosaur heterochrony by John Long (Western Australian museum) and Ken McNamara.

The articles cover such wide ranging topics as dinosaur discoveries, biology and behaviour, research methods, and reconstruction and restoration. There are numerous illustrations and skeletal reconstructions throughout the volume.

Oz's lost world cover

Australia's Lost World. A history of Australia's backboned animals

Patricia Vickers-Rich, Leaellyn S.Rich and Thomas H.Rich. Published 1996, Kangaroo Press.
ISBN 0 86417 798 4

Cover: The dinosaurs Minmi paravertebra, Atlascopcosaurus loadsi, and Timimus hermani, and the pterosaur Ornithocheirus, from an Australia Post stamp issue painted by Peter Trusler

Written mainly for upper primary and early secondary students, with the input of Drs Tom Rich and Pat Vickers-Richs' teenage daughter Leaellyn (after whom the dinosaur Leaellynasaura was named) to ensure the book is easy to read and accessable to most people. The copious photographs and illustrations make it of interest to people of all ages. It is essentially a brief history of Australian life from the first unicellular blobs to the late pleistocene. The chapter on dinosaurs tends to concentrate on the Dinosaur Cove discoveries, which is hardly surprising considering the authors. Although published in 1996 the book did not receive widespread distribution until the release of the movie Jurassic Park: The Lost World.

Vert.Pal.of Oz

Vertebrate Palaeontology of Australasia

Edited by Patricia Vickers-Rich, Jenny Monaghan, R.F.Baird, and Thomas H.Rich. Published 1991, Pioneer Design Studios (Lilydale)
ISBN 0 90967 436 1

Cover: Leaellynasaura amicagraphica, with Atlascopcosaurus loadsi in the background

This is a huge text book (1440 pages) with information on most of the Australasian vertebrate fossils, up to the date of publication. This was the second version published in 1991 (the first was in 1982), although I am unaware of any more recent volumes. The chapters include histories of fossil discovery and methods of preparation and conservation, amongst other topics. There is also a comprehensive bibliography.


Kadimakara: Extinct Vertebrates of Australia

Edited by Patricia Vickers-Rich & G.F.van Tets, illustrated by Frank Knight. Published 1985, Princeton University Press
ISBN 0 691 08733 4

Cover: Rhoetosaurus, Wonambi and a monodactyl kangaroo, by Frank Knight

Although now out of print, this gorgeous book contains many of Frank Knight's full-page colour paintings of extinct Australian animals. It begins with an overview of fossil discovery in Australia, and goes on to discuss 32 species in detail, from Devonian fish to Pleistocene mammals (with six Mesozoic faunae).

There is an aboriginal legend about the Kadimakara, that says that these "monsters" once lived in a huge canopy of trees that covered central Australia. When the trees disappeared, the Kadimakara wandered about in the desert until they died at Lake Eyre, where their bones can still be found. The legend hints at the once vast inland forests and lakes that filled Australia's now arid centre, where all kinds of animals once lived, from huge marsupials to fresh-water dolphins and flamingoes.

I bought my (much treasured) copy from the Monash University Science Centre, in Melbourne, Victoria. If you live in Australia, you might just be lucky enough to order one, provided they have any left in stock. Tell them Dann sent you... and they might just help you regardless!

Non-Dinosaur Books

Rise of Fishes

The Rise of Fishes. 500 Million Years of Evolution

John A.Long. Published 1997 University of New South Wales Press.
ISBN 0 80185 438 5

Although not strictly limited to Australian fish fossils, this book was written by Dr John Long of the Western Australian Museum. It contains 250 colour photographs and 70 colour illustrations of fish fossils and life reconstructions. The text covers the entire 500 million year span of fish evolution. It includes a detailed chart summarising fish evolution and classification, and a glossary of technical terms. Some of the worlds best preserved fish fossils have been found in Australia, many of them exquisitely preserved, uncrushed and in three dimensions (as in the cover photograph).

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