A bull triceratops stands alone at the feet of a giant redwood tree. He rubs two long, conical horns against the rough bark with quick, strong thrusts of his head. His massive chest heaves as he grunts and snorts, toes digging into the dry earth.
A flash above, so bright that it cuts through the dappled shadows of the undergrowth. Birds cry an alarm in the distance, and a rumble like thunder breaks through the drone of insects. The bull tries to blink out the blindness as he swings his heavy head slowly, like a shield, snuffling the air. Beaked mouth slack to taste the scents around him as he tenses his body, listening.
The rumble doesn’t go away. It’s getting louder.
The triceratops turns away from the tree to face the crashing and rumbling. He tilts his shielded head down and steps back, shaking all three horns against the coming roar. The crash of trees, the shrieks of birds and other panicked creatures. The rush of hot earth. Dry ash. flying debris…
65 million years ago nearly all life was destroyed. Some, like our triceratops, were lucky enough to die from the impact of an enormous asteroid. Others died out from the aftermath. Dinosaurs, and all the other animals that have gone extinct throughout the ages, are dead and gone. My first grade teacher told my mother that if it wasn’t in the curriculum, she wouldn’t even mention them. So why learn about them? Why do they matter at all? To be perfectly frank…who cares?
Here are ten reasons why I think prehistoric animals, and specifically dinosaurs, are still worth learning about. 🙂
– They were real animals. Now I think dragons are just as cool as the next guy, but dragons are pure fantasy. Just like modern animals, dinos & friends could be dorky, weird, beautiful, and crazy wonderful…even ordinary!
– They highlight what makes the modern world amazing. That plain old sparrow in your backyard is a dinosaur! How cool is that? (I liked songbirds before they were cool) For some people, the “cool factor” dinosaurs have can inspire interest in modern animals.
– Dinosaurs inspire the imagination. Since there is a lot we don’t know about them, they inspire a lot of the same wonder as fantasy creatures do. How big where they? What color? How did they live? They keep us young at heart by asking questions, and we are free to speculate on answers. To dream.
– They show us how much things can change over time. Dinosaurs are a great example of how much animals can change over time. Earth’s been through just about everything, from steamy jungles to ice ages, explosions of life and mass extinctions. Life finds a way, and it’s amazing to see how it changes over time.
– Better records. There are lots of dinosaur bones. Bones from many different species, over a mindboggling span of time. Other prehistoric critters? Not so much.
– We don’t have all the answers. There’re so many new discoveries lately, like a giant Jurassic Park sized raptor with proof of feathers (and not that fluffy fuzz stuff). And lots of them are from dusting off old fossils in museum collections! We don’t know everything, and there’s always something new and exciting around the corner.
– Get kids interested in learning. Let’s face it, some kids (like 6-year-old me, hehe) are really, really into dinosaurs. For these kids, stick a dinosaur in it and it becomes interesting. Math, science, cooking…it all becomes an adventure!
– Dinosaur names are great for vocabulary and reading practice. Some Latin here, a bit of Greek there, maybe a smattering of Chinese or Spanish…Kids get introduced to foreign languages in a fun way. Not to mention the great reading skills they practice when they learn all those names!
– They remind us that life is a gift. So many animals, over so many years, gone forever. Life flourishes, and then a new era begins with almost no warning. It’s a humbling reminder that we can’t take life for granted, and we must be good stewards of what we’ve been given.
– They are a part of this amazing world. When I look at the big picture- the earth from the present day back to the dawn of time- I see more than just the happy accident of random chance. I see a beautiful work of art, each brushstroke an example of the care placed in each creature’s place in life. Including our own. 🙂
Do you think prehistoric critters are worth learning about? Or are they something that’s not really that big a deal? I’d be happy to here from you!