Everyone over the age of 4 years old knows dinosaurs were truly awesome creatures and, if they weren’t extinct, they’d make the perfect transport for the dapper kid about town. But, given mankind’s fear of being violently chewed to death, it’s a pretty good thing the great, meat eating dinosaurs are dead. Walking to the local supermarket is hazardous enough – dodging cyclists and speeding cars – without having to worry about the threat of being stomped by a creature with a brain smaller than your big toe.
For millions of years, most dinosaurs were actually pretty boring. Most remained fairly small much to the disappointment of parents and children alike looking for a retro twist on the fair ground ride. But just as the Jurassic period kicked off, a minor disturbance in the force rippled across the planet… a sound like a million voices cried out… then suddenly went silent. Any dinosaurs to big or stupid to run and hide got fried.
But some of them managed to live on, not in huge numbers but at least they’ve been more successful than a Mike Tyson comeback fight.
Here, in all their glory are 3 dinosaurs that managed to cross the boundary between fossilised curiosity and modern day enigma…
The Coelacanth first appeared in the fossil records about 360 million years ago. In evolutionary terms, this fish would have qualified for it’s pension many times over. The seas of the Devonian era in which it lived were filled with creatures that could have only been spewed from the loins of Satan himself. Fish like Dunkleosteus were released from the seventh level of hell just to meet the Devil’s perverse desire to feed off the fear his armoured attack dog generated in the cold depths.
The fact that the Coelacanth managed to live through an era where there seas were a writhing mass of teeth is impressive enough. What’s even more impressive is that it absolutely thrived – they were like a prehistoric version of Harry Hill: odd looking, not very funny but seemed to be everywhere at once.
Which Animal Is Descended From Coelacanth?
Err, the Coelacanth!
What’s more amazing than its resilience to mass extinction is that it managed to thrive even with a brain that filled only 1.5% of its cranial capacity (the rest of the skull is, quite literally, filled with fat which gives mankind some kind of hope for the future). But, as we know, time and tide wait for no man or, in this case, evolutionary throwback that should have crawled onto land millions of years ago. Estimates suggest that there are now only around 1,000 Coelacanth left in the world.
Seems like mother nature is doing her own version of a house clearance – room by room, species by tenacious spices.
Like Coelacanth, the stomatosuchus is another beastie that originated way back in the Triassic period. But, since the Cretaceious period, they’ve been pretty much trapped in the fast setting concrete of an evolutionary dead end – if the mindless killing machine ain’t broke don’t try and fix it! Far from being just a dinosaur with a stupid name, stomatosuchus was a highly effective, water borne killing machine with a love of covering its prey with thousands of tiny kisses before the final big sleep.
Ok, I made up the part about the kisses. But, based on the body shape and locations of fossil finds, scientists believe that it lived in water and ate things that lived in or near water. Like Robinson Crusoe only older and more scary.
But, at some point in the past, some prey species started to realise that the very ominous, dark shaped drifting towards them was going to ruin their day and ran for the hills. The result? Some of these hellish killing machines turned to a food source that was easier to hunt – fruit. Scientists won’t agree on the exact reason for this turn of events so theories range from a lack of prey to becoming self-conscious about their body image.
Which Animal Is Descended From Stomatosuchus?
The cuddly crocodile.
Whilst Stomatosuchus is the grandaddy of modern days crocs the species has been evolving for millions and millions of years but very slowly. Like the Coelacanth, crocodilians have spent the past few hundred million years hanging out in swamps doing their thing. You know: a bit of killing here, some sunbathing there and then, to top off the day, a bit more killing.
But time has been kinder to this reptile than its fishy throwback brothers in arms because they’re thriving. Ever since man started to realise that crocodile skin shoes are a fashion crime punishable by death the croc has benefited. Although some of the smaller sub-species are endangered most crocodiles seem to be thriving
Note: Stomatosuchus might sound like some of delicious tasting vegetable that’s perfect roasted and served with pork chops but it actually means ‘walnut brain’!
50 million years ago, the rivers of the Eocene period were home to a dog sized animal that could actually be described as cute (if you ignored the fact that its mouth was filled with the enamel equivalent of steak knives). When I say cute I mean the special kind of cuteness that you can only find in pit bulls.
Ambulocetus, like the crocodile, was an ambush predator right down to the way it would sneak up on its prey and lunge from the water in an attempt to get some killing action going. Although a formidable eating machine, the Ambulocetus’s lack of ears made it easy prey in much the same way that old people are easy targets for skinny young men and women who talk with a strong accent and bear an uncanny resemblance to the members of Abba!
Which Animal Is Descended From Ambulocetus?4>
Ambulocetus didn’t quite make it all the way into the modern era which is good news for slow swimmers. But it’s relatives did – the whale. The Pakicetus is four letters shy of being one of the most offensively named animals in history. It’s also the forerunner of the modern whale which may not have an offensive name but has a habit of attracting Japanese ‘research’ vessels intent on doing some, well, ‘research’ aka sushi time.
Obviously there are major differences between the creatures we see today and their ancestors. Modern whales like Kaiko, the killer whale in ‘Free Willy’ are more likely to try and rescue drowning scuba divers. Ambulocetus would have chewed their faces off.