Dinosaurs!!!

2 Apr

My theory for why so many kids love dinosaurs is that it’s the last time you’re allowed to believe that monsters are real. The idea that these strange and sometimes huge dragonlike creatures once owned this entire planet for around 165 million years is just fantastic no matter what your age.

The human race hasn’t a jot on them; Here’s a little example that I came up with (using a few/many sheets of paper and some rather dubious arithmetic) if the last 230 million years could be represented by the windows of the empire state building, the reign of the dinosaurs would light up 4,663 windows. So imagine the New York skyline at night with 72% of all of the windows of the empire state lit up. Now, if you try and picture the same image for the full time humankind has existed it’s really quite pathetic: Just 71 windows light up (and that’s being generous), that’s a mere 1% of the entire building. Phew, elaborate metaphors are hard work!

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So what brings me to the subject? Well it turns out Colorado is THE spot for dinosaurs! Fossil ones obviously; cloned mammoths and dinochickens are sadly still a good few decades away at least (see http://www.geekosystem.com/russian-south-korean-clone-woolly-mammoth/ and http://blog.ted.com/2011/06/07/building-a-dinosaur-from-a-chicken-jack-horner-on-ted/ ). Therefore, I have decided to use this as the perfect excuse to get nerdy and reawaken my 7-year old wannabe paleontologist. At the end of my first week I decided to go to Dinosaur Ridge, just 25 minutes drive west outside Denver with my Dinopedia in hand. Dinosaur Ridge is an area near the foothills of the Rockies where tonnes of fossils of dinosauria have been found, including the first ever Apatosaurus (formerly known as Brontosaurus) and Stegosaurus skeletons. I got such a kick out of the whole thing and couldn’t recommend it more highly; I got to touch an ornithomimus footprint and I saw the petriefied rippled shoreline of an ancient seaway that ran through prehistoric North America. It was very special and I can safely say Geology rocks! (Haha, I crack me up sometimes)

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This is of course the perfect excuse to run down my top 5 prehistoric creatures and with barely baited breath let us begin!

5. Crassigyrinus

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A Carboniferous predator, about 2 metres long and one of the stranger looking beasties with a long fishlike body and tiny little legs.

4.Cyamodus

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Like a reptilian ray, this aquatic Jurassic pseudo-turtle had a hinged shell and fed off shellfish in what is now mainland Europe.

3. Desmatosuchus

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A 5 metre long armorplated vegetarian crocodile, just awesome!

2. Liopleurodon

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One of the top predators of the Jurassic seas and at 25 metres long you can tell why. Here’s a cool video from the BBC’s Walking With Dinosaurs: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bpDqTdXfEcA&feature=relmfu

1. Deinonychus

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Having adored Jurassic park and been uniformly terrified and obsessed with raptors from the age of 7, it’s Deinonychus (not velociraptor as they are named in the film) that is number one for me. Unlike the film versions we now know that most raptors were actually feathered, having even found examples of actual dinosaur feathers in amber.

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Now on a related note here is one of my favourite scenes in cinema history: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dnRxQ3dcaQk

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One Response to “Dinosaurs!!!”

  1. Dr. Evil Cath April 2, 2012 at 6:21 pm #

    Have you tried saying “aquatic Jurassic pseudo-turtle” three times fast?
    I’m catching up with last month’s Physics World “Physics and the Earth” special, and I would have to agree that Geophysics rocks too :)

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