Wednesday, June 10, 2015

When Dinosaurs Ruled the Earth: Our Favorite Dinos

"If history repeats itself, I am so getting a dinosaur." 

It's a truth universally acknowledged that everybody likes dinosaurs. How could you not like the idea of dusty bones--fossils--once being living, breathing "terrible lizards?" Whether it was through fossils in a museum, legends of "monsters" or dragons that span the globe, or even pop culture references, everybody has been introduced to the concept of dinosaurs and the mysteries their petrified bones hold. 

And everybody likes dinosaurs...



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This coming weekend, Jurassic World releases in theaters and opens the park to a whole new world of dinosaurs. The origin tale, Jurassic Park, breathed life to the possibility of bringing back dinosaurs to the modern world. The new film promises such possibilities again only with a successful park and a ticket for one exciting ride.

Here at The Fangirl Initiative, we're pretty excited to enter the park, so we've gathered together to talk about our favorite dinosaurs and why they would make great pets (you know, in case they do ever bring back dinosaurs. Even though there's now four movies that give good reason why "that's a very, very bad idea").

So let's go back to prehistoric times...

...when dinosaurs ruled the earth!

Jaime's Dinosaur

When it comes to dinosaurs, I have a hard time choosing which dino I'd want for a pet. I mean, they’re all so cool. After all, Wikipedia lists 1449 genera of dinos (excluding bird-like ones). That’s a long list to choose from. Plus, it’s not so easy to simply state the better known dinos . There are many dinos that resemble each other within the classification system (orders, infraorders, families, division, subdivisions, etc.) with only minor differences to give them the 1449 distinguishable names. 

Thus, I cannot choose one specific dino down to the name, classification, and special features. So instead, I’m choosing my favorite infraorder (a classification above family but below a suborder): the sauropod. Now before you get confused, a sauropod is what we Land Before Time junkies call “long necks” or in most cases, the well-known Apatosaurus, Brontosaur, and Brachiosaurus. The big ones with long necks, long tails, and four legs. Oh, and they’re herbivores.

Why are these gentle veggie-lovers my chosen pet? They aren’t scary like the T-Rex. They aren’t clever like the Raptors. And they don’t look cool like the Triceratops or the Stegosaurus, right? Well, I think sauropods still have many good qualities to bring to the table of dinos. There is good reason they are easily recognized whether you’re watching Jurassic Park or Land Before Time.

First, they’re considered some of the largest creatures to exist on Earth. The only exception: whales, which didn’t walk the land like these beasts. The longest discovered was about 120 ft. long, whereas the longest creature alive today doesn’t even hit 23 ft. long. Now that is cool. Even the smallest measured families were still huge compared to almost every creature. Most sauropods didn’t need to fear large carnivorous dinos like the T-Rex because most were twice the size of the “big baddies.” I don’t know about you, but owning one of the biggest creatures in the world counts for some major dino points. They've got the perfect body structure for riding as well. It's like a giant horse, or according to Alan Grant in Jurassic Park, "Think of it as a big cow." Plus, who’s going to pick a fight with a guy over 50 ft. long?

In addition, various genera of sauropods had distinct qualities to up the “wow factor” (in the words of Owen from Jurassic World “Dinosaurs, wow enough”). Some types might have been able to crack their tail like a whip. Again, not something I would want to mess with. There were some that had body armor like the stegosaurus or ankylosaurs (one genera had clubs on their tails). So they could be used for protection against bullies or big brothers.

Unfortunately, sauropods are estimated to have been slow walkers, only going about two miles per hours because of their great size and the strain the movement put on their bodies. And, they had to eat a lot of plants in order to survive. I guess there wouldn’t be leftovers. Plus, there is the matter of "dino droppings" (as Dr. Ian Malcolm calls it in Jurassic Park). Maybe they wouldn’t make such great pets after all. Or they'd at least be difficult to take care of.

However, a 50 foot dino fossil was discovered in China in 2006. The farmers who found it called it the “Dragon of Qijiang” because the long neck structure resembled the form of the Chinese Dragon (long body shape without visible or distinctive limbs or wings). This newly discovered species belongs to the mamenchisaurids group, distinguished by long necks that measure half the body length (whereas most sauropods only have necks that measure a third of the body length). I find this discovery fascinating because not only is that a long neck, but it’s the closest dinosaur we have to a dragon (If you don't know, dragons are my favorite). And that’s just so cool!!!

In addition just like the plesiosaur is said to be living still through the legend of Nessie, there’s a cryptid (an animal suggested to exist usually in cryptozoology) about a creature in the Congo that resembles a sauropod structure called “Mokèlé-mbèmbé.” Sauropods might not be the best dinosaur to ever exist, probably not the most interesting or the best pet to have to care for, but they’re still endearing and kind of amazing to think about existing. Plus, maybe sauropods still live today and are our best chance at a real dino pet. You decide. 

Anna's Dinosaur

I would want to have a Tyrannosaurus Rex as a pet. One would pretty much have to quit everything else in one's life to take care of it, but come on, who doesn't want to quit everything and become a dinosaur caretaker? Besides, Tyrannosaurs are completely adorable. The first thing I would train my pet Tyrannosaur to do is to play the ukulele.

Mirriam's Dinosaur
They’re dinosaurs. ‘Wow’ enough. 

I’ve always been fascinated with dinosaurs. I don’t know how many hours I spent as a kid, reading everything from ‘Dino ABC’ to books on fossils. I would draw them, trace them, ask for dinosaur toys (you could often find an ankylosaurus in the pen with my Breyer horses) - these huge, majestic lizards always fascinated me.  However, I’m not necessarily going to talk about a real dinosaur; I’m going to talk about one we all know and love, even if we didn’t grow up as aspiring paleontologists. 

I’m going to talk about Godzilla. In his most recent movie, we saw Godzilla turned on his head – the incredible, fire-breathing monster was not our enemy, for the first time. In fact, he was a rescuer; saving potential millions (and causing a lot of economical damage which we can forgive because hey, he’s awesome and he was helping). 

Face it – Godzilla would make the world’s most freakishly awesome pet. Why? I’ll tell you.

1. He would be the best guard-animal you could find. Someone tries to break into your house? Well, Godzilla would crush the house – and the burglar – flat. Problem solved.

2. Out of matches? Need a light? Want to barbeque? Have graham crackers, marshmallows, and chocolate – but no fire? Fear not – Godzilla would light up half the country, and voila – you’d have the best smore’s around.

3. You couldn’t have a safer seeing-eye pet. If you were disabled, you could feasibly build a moving home on top of Godzilla and never be in danger. Traffic? No longer a problem.

4. Visiting family and friends would be that much easier. Why bother booking a plane ticket when your loved ones are literally a hop, skip and a jump away? 

5. He kicks gluteus maximus. You need no other reason.

Sarah's Dinosaur

I grew up watching the Land Before Time, playing with plastic dinosaurs, hiding behind the couch during Jurassic Park, and playing the card game Dino Dig (did anyone else ever play that?) Over the years, though, my dinosaur knowledge has become a little fossilized. (But my ability to make feeble puns is still going strong, thank you.) However, there is one dinosaur that stands above the others as my favorite: the Plesiosaurs. True, I just learned the proper name of it, but this dinosaur is actually quite famous… as the Loch Ness monster.

I know, you’re shaking your head and saying, “Sarah, the Loch Ness monster is a myth.” I beg to differ. After all, we know the plesiosaurs existed, and the common belief is that the Loch Ness was really a surviving descendant of said dinosaur. So basically, the Loch Ness is the nicknamed grandchild of the Plesiosaurus… and therefore, the Loch Ness could be real. I say it is real, and it’s a Plesiosaurs. Now that we’ve cleared up any doubts as to the legitimacy of the Loch Ness (or Nessie, as I prefer to say) being a dinosaur, here are a few reasons why this is my favorite dinosaur, and also one I’d choose as a pet.

There’s a whole Scottish legend starring Nessie. Do people go out of their way to look for a T-Rex in a lagoon? No. They go to spot the famous Nessie. 

Not only does Nessie qualify as a dinosaur, she (I’ve decided she’s a girl. After all, I’m the one adopting the Loch Ness) is considered a sea monster. This means she’s not only eligible to be in science and history books, but fairy tales and fantasies as well. I think we know which dinosaur-ish creature is going to be featured in my next story. How awesome is the title of sea monster?

I cannot swim, so I try to avoid deep water. However, if I had a pet Loch Ness and could guarantee it wouldn’t eat me, I could depend on it to teach me to swim. Or at the very least, save me if I fell in and were going to drown. 

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The plesiosaurs can swim faster than an Olympian. How’s that for a champion dinosaur? 

Most dinosaurs are confined to dry land. I would imagine it would get quite crowded, not to mention there’s the issue of being attacked and/or eaten. The population under water isn’t as dense, so Nessie has more space and gets to be the queen of the sea. 

Depending on what you believe about Loch Ness sightings, Nessie could still be out there. And if she is, she would be one of the last remaining dinosaur descendants (except for the alligator, I think. But Nessie probably eats those).

Do you agree that the Loch Ness is an awesome dinosaur? Who wants to join me in Scotland to visit Nessie?

Sky's Dinosaur

When I was younger, my brother and I had a collection of plastic dinosaurs. We would play with them for hours. We made families or reenacted battles (sometimes both). I have fond memories of them, and if given the chance to have a dino as a pet, I would say yes.

I really love a lot of dinosaurs--sauropods, stegosauruses, and triceratops in particular. So if I lived in the age of the dinosaurs, or they were transported to the 20th century, I'd probably have a whole zoo. But for the purposes of this collab, I've chosen one dinosaur who can soar in the skies: the pterodactylus, referred to commonly as the pterodactyl. Petrie from The Land Before Time, anyone?

A dinosaur with wings, the pterodactyl is a crossover between the dinosaur world and the beasts of the air. It might be a lie to refer to their wings as wings, since their "wing" is actually a membrane stretched between the pterodactyl's fingers. But its "wings" are the reason I love it--I'll admit, my greatest wish would be to ride my pterodactyl on adventures.

But how sustainable could it really be to keep a pterodactyl as a pet?  As far as daily care, pterodactyls are carnivores and could be easily fed with fish. Stay by a water source for your pet, and you should be good to go.

The challenging part would be keeping the pterodactyl in one place. While it would be fun to ride the pterodactyl around, the same wings that would carry me would also carry my pterodactyl away from me. For this, I'd say having to tame and domesticate the pterodactyl would be your best bet. Make friends with the pterodactyl--if you have a trusting relationship, it's less likely that they'd leave. It may be difficult to earn the dinosaur's trust, but the downsides to keeping a pterodactyl as a pet don't compare to what it would be like to soar through the air with your decidedly un-feathered friend.

Rica's Dinosaur

For a long time, my favorite dinosaur was probably a hadrosaur (you may know them as the “duck-bills” in The Land Before Time).

My main reason for the choice was threefold:

1. They’re herbivores. If I had one for a pet, it wouldn’t eat me.

2. They’re semi-aquatic. If I rode my dinosaur, we would be able to travel by land and water.

3. They’re a combination of biped and quadruped. That means that, unlike the slightly unbalanced T-Rex…

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…they can walk both on two legs or all fours, which would allow me to ride my pet either like a horse or a tauntaun (the furry llama-things ridden on Hoth by Han Solo and Luke Skywalker in The Empire Strikes Back). And that’s just cool.

However, while browsing a through a library book on unique dinosaurs, I found Parasaurolophus (“Pair-a-sore-olla-fuss”). It’s nearly identical to hadrosaurs physically, but with one main exception: the bony crest on its head is actually hollow and connected to its nostrils, which means that parasaurolophus very likely could have made ‘music’ by exhaling at various speeds! Some paleontologists have even made 3-D models of the skulls and experimented by sending air through the horn at different pressures. The results are eerily breathtaking (and, I am not ashamed to admit, are now on my iPod)!

[There are multiple videos featuring parasaurolophus sounds, but this one is my favorite because it mixes in rain sounds and makes the dinosaur’s call sound as if it’s really coming from the wild.]

Admittedly, the Jurassic Park films have tried to take part in the idea of ‘musical’ dinosaurs, too. They featured the ‘singing’ brachiosaurus in the first film, and involved the 3-D printed model of a raptor’s vocal cavity in Jurassic Park III. But those were both fictional creations, meant to enchant an audience rather than adhere to scientific findings. Parasaurolophus is the real deal!

What's your favorite dinosaur and why? Which dinosaur do you think would make the best pet? We'd love to hear about your favorite dinosaurs. 


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