Birds and Lizards

Imagine you’re on a school field trip with Mr. Kessler. He’s a paleontology nerd, boring you to death about the ancient past. Then you spot something. It’s like the shell of a turtle, only fossilized. Cool!

“Wait a minute,” Mr. Kessler interrupts. “I believe that’s no turtle, if I’m not mistaken it’s the shield from a stegosaurus!”

This discovery took place in 1937. By 1940 the complete skeleton of this stegosaurus was displayed in the Denver Museum of Nature and Science. Recently, a 3D digital scan of the bones was used to make a replica.

A couple of weeks ago we visited Chris’ grandson, sometimes a boy of few words, (in contrast to his loquacious sister) ;- that is until he directed us to his Lego models and told us all about pterodactyls, allosaurs, tyrannosaurus rex, plesiosaurus, diplodocus and many more. His imagination’s sparked by dinosaurs, just as his dad’s was, and many other kids have been over the decades.

Not me! I grew up unaware I was living through the Dinosaur Renaissance,  – a time when researchers realized that many dinosaurs were warm-blooded, fierce and active, not slow-moving behemoths as we hitherto believed. I found it hard to accept that a world populated by dinosaurs was not the stuff of fantasy.

Many years later this dinosaur denier started spending summers in Colorado. Surrounded by fossils and dinosaur tracks, I was forced to suspend my disbelief and develop my own fascination for these prehistoric giants. In fact, I found them of such interest that dinosaurs may return to delight you further in a future blog.

Dinosaurs really did rule the earth and populated every continent except the Arctic. Of course, the land mass was very different in the Mesozoic Age that lasted from 250 million years ago to a comparatively recent 65 million years ago. Much of what is now Colorado was covered by an inland sea, the western interior seaway, extending from Alaska to the Gulf of Mexico. As the land emerged, it was first a low-lying fertile plane packed with vegetation and vast herds of dinosaurs. Many of these creatures were gigantic as there was abundant food and an oxygen-rich atmosphere. Where the animals’ carcasses were not scavenged by other dinosaurs, they were often preserved intact and fossilized due to  local conditions, and geologic shifts and upheavals that formed the current continents and, in Colorado, thrust the Rocky Mountains.

Broken shoulder of Brontosaurus
Daspletosaurus with Osteoporosis

Not long ago, Chris and I visited Dinosaur Experience. Peering up at the massive skeletons, it’s hard not to be awestruck. We learned much, of the Bones Rush that accompanied the Gold Rush in nineteenth century Colorado and neighboring states, of the bitter rivalry between Marsh and Cope, (respected paleontologists of the time) that resulted in finds being dynamited to prevent the rivals from making a claim. We also learned that the skeletons have stories to share, from the obvious osteoporosis of the daspletosaurus specimen, and the broken shoulder of the brontosaurus, to  more subtle clues about diets, range and lifespans. The broken-shouldered brontosaurus, (or should we refer to this giant as apatosaurus as some experts suggest,) must have been sheltered by his pack, as today‘s elephants protect family members, and dinosaur tracks confirm that many species, both plant and meat eaters travelled in herds. 

The name dinosaur, means “terrible lizard.”  Early researchers, after initially believing their specimens were evidence of giants or mythical creatures such as dragons, then thought they resembled lizards on a massive scale. Intriguingly, in addition to huge flying reptiles, some of the large specimens show bird-like features, and there is evidence of feathers. Perhaps there is a case to be made to rename the terrible “lizards” and, in future, refer to them as the “Angry Birds.”

Jean Goulden on Artsy Stegosaurus

News Flash!

A Glass Darkly update.

My professional editor has reviewed half the novel. She’s having knee surgeryso progress will be slow over the coming weeks.

In the meantime, I am presenting A Glass Darkly to literary agents at a forthcoming Florida Writers’ event.

Watch this space for another excerpt coming soon.

End Notes





I’m On Top of the World
Imagine Dragons

Peace Piece
Bill Evans


To You
Langston Hughes

Moon Lily
Marilyn Nelson

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