Tag Archives: prehistoric animals

‘Jandra’s Nasty Toothed Bird’ (2016)

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If you’ve read much of my Bell Mountain series, you’ll know that Jandra is the toddler prophetess through whom God spoke to make Ryons a king. And you’ll know that, wherever she goes, she has a hissing toothed bird that follows her around.

Many readers wished to see that bird. The enclosed video was about the closest thing I could find to it. (And look at this! Mr. Genius has just erased the video accidentally, as he was trying to post it. Well, let me see if I can get it back… Got it!)

https://leeduigon.com/2016/03/12/jandras-nasty-toothed-bird/

Feel free to completely ignore the evolution fairy tale that comes with the video.


Places that Never Were–Or Were They?

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Charles R. Knight, who died in 1953, became famous in his own lifetime as the world’s most convincing painter of prehistoric life. Among my early memories are trips to the American Museum of Natural History, and looking up at Knight’s great murals, my mind full of wild surmises for which I wasn’t old enough to find words.

I still love Knight’s work, but I’ve learned to appreciate another aspect of it–his background scenery. There are a lot of people who can paint or draw prehistoric animals. I can do that. But only a very few are able to bring us into the world those creatures lived in.

The painting above launched Knight’s career, when it was still the 19th century. The animal is Elotherium. Never mind that. The scenery which Elotherium inhabits–the longer I look at it, the realer it gets!

I could just about swear that Knight’s Elotheriums are in a real place. More than that–a place that I know. I used to play alongside a stream just like that, on Orchard Street, before they paved everything over. I climbed and skidded up and down those steep banks. I waded in that water, although it was too deep to wade all the way across. I was there. I didn’t see any Elotheriums, but I was there. If they’d come out of the woods on the other side, I’d’ve seen them.

And where would that stream take me, if I could follow it up to the top of the painting? What enchanted country would I discover?

What a gift the Lord Our God gave Charles Knight! God made us in His image, and some of us He made creators. We can only revel in it, and give thanks.

I think God knows where these places really are. He made them. Oh, for a glimpse, O Lord!

But who knows what He has in store for us?


Mr. Nature: Mosasaurus

The Komodo dragon of Indonesia is, as Bob and Ray observed, the world’s largest living lizard. Full-grown at ten feet long and 300 pounds, occasionally it eats… people.

Some thousands of years ago, certain monitor lizards in Australia grew to be twice the size of a Komodo dragon. But they were pipsqueaks compared to the Mosasaurus of the Cretaceous Period (or whenever–we don’t want to take such things too seriously).

As you can see in this clip from Jurassic World, the Mosasaur was very, very big–up to thirty or even forty feet long, depending on the species. Mosasaurs are all the rage in dinosaur movies today, and of course their size is exaggerated therein. Closely related to today’s monitor lizards, the Mosasaur was likely the supreme predator of its time. Instead of legs it had flippers, so it had to stay in the water. And no, it was not as big as a New Jersey township.

What hath God wrought? We can only marvel at the scanty remains of these gigantic creatures that are no longer with us. Where they are now, only the God who made them knows. But maybe someday He will tell us.


‘A Rat as Big as a Car’ (2014)

We think of rodents as little creatures. But what if you could see a rodent ten feet long, five feet high, and as heavy as a pair of polar bears?

https://leeduigon.com/2014/10/27/a-rat-as-big-as-a-car/

Actually it looks like a capybara, the largest rodent still around today.

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Josephoartigasia supposedly died out two million years ago, before anyone was around to set out giant mousetraps. All we can say for sure is that we aren’t able to find it anywhere today.

Imagine the size of the exercise wheel you’d need to buy.


Another Weird New Dinosaur

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I don’t know how seriously, anymore, to take reconstructions of dinosaurs.

This newly-described critter, Gigantoraptor, judging by the shape of its skull, belonged to a group of dinosaurs called Oviraptors. Those were small as dinosaurs go, less than the size of an adult human. But Gigantoraptor was… well, gigantic.  It’s, like, hamsters are these little furry guys that fit in the palm of your hand–except for this one kind that’s as big as a Great Dane. How does that happen? Should we be looking for in-between Oviraptors?

Most of the reconstructions (I’ve only posted one) show the dinosaur richly covered with feathers. The feather thing has gotten completely out of hand. Some of these guys would reconstruct a parking meter with feathers, if they had the chance. It should be pointed out that most of these feathery dinosaurs are imaginary: traces of feathers have only been found with the fossils of a few kinds of small dinosaurs.

We don’t have anything like a complete skeleton of Gigantoraptor (this is true for many kinds of dinosaurs, even some of the most famous ones), but the skull pretty much nails it as an Oviraptor, so it seems reasonable to reconstruct it as an Oviraptor, albeit several magnitudes too large.

But look at Stegosaurus, a very famous dinosaur, discovered in the 19th century–and they’re still fiddling around with it today, trying out various possible arrangements of the plates on its back and the spikes in its tail. The jury’s still out. What’s settled science today will be laughed at tomorrow.

Image result for images of stegosaurus At least they aren’t suggesting anymore that maybe it could fly.

Oh, well! Dinosaur science is fun and I like to follow it as closely as I can. The next critter they come up with, I might find a place for in my books.


All About Those Weird Knuckle-Bears

Here’s everything you ever wanted to know about those strange animals called “knuckle-bears” (because they walk on their knuckles)–plus some stuff that you can just ignore, about evolution and jillions of years, etc.

These were once found all over the world, but now they’re supposed to be extinct. If you read Bell Mountain, you know they’ve reappeared in Lintum Forest, venturing out at night and silently returning in the stillness of the dawn. Not even Helki knows where they sleep and bear their young.

It seems the Lord Our God was particularly creative when He made these. What are they? They seem to be a jumble of all these other animals–horses, bears, gorillas, tapirs, rhinos, and sloths… Don’t believe anyone who says Science has nailed down the chalicotheres’ place in the animal kingdom.

If you’re one of the few who’ve been to Lintum Forest and actually seen the knuckle-bears, you won’t even try to pin them down.


A Window into Another World

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Charles R. Knight was always one of my favorite artists. He is best known for the paintings he executed for our country’s great museums–paintings that make prehistoric ages come alive.

This is one of his renditions of Uintatherium, a walking fortress that exists no more. Well, naturally I’m going to groove on the prehistoric animals. But lately it’s been another aspect of Knight’s paintings that has captured my imagination.

His backgrounds.

Look closely. Take your time. Ignore the creature and study the landscape. I don’t know about you, but I would just about swear that Knight’s prehistoric landscapes were real places that he’d visited.

I know about that. I dream of places that are only real when I dream them. In fact, that’s how Bell Mountain started.

I know nothing of Charles R. Knight’s religious beliefs. But I believe that if the Holy Spirit wants to use you, He will, regardless of what you believe. If we approach Knight’s possibly real, possibly imaginary places in the right frame of mind, the Spirit might touch us, too.

God created the world and all living things, and pronounced them good. If He has Uintatherium safely tucked away in some unguessed-at corner of His universe, I wouldn’t be surprised if it were in a place just like the one Knight painted.

And who would be more surprised to discover that than Charles Knight himself?


My Favorite Prehistoric Fish

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I fell in love with this little critter the first time I saw its picture in a book–Pteraspis, a prehistoric armored fish that supposedly went extinct some 350 million years ago. I don’t think I could’ve been more than five years old.

Pteraspis looks like a dart come to life. British pubs had not yet been invented, so Pteraspis didn’t have to worry about being pressed into service as a projectile. Its armor probably protected it from most predators.

Just a thought: Wait’ll someone finds some soft tissue in one o’ these babies! The fat’ll be in the fire then. Heads will roll, I tell ‘ee….


Mr. Nature: Podokesaurus

https://i.pinimg.com/originals/05/05/b1/0505b1dcccf35c5071a78e3a31ed128e.jpg

Jambo! Mr. Nature here: and our safari today takes us into the world created by artist Rudolph Zallinger in his 1947 mural, The Age of Reptiles.

I am particularly interested in Podokesaurus–because it has a cool name, hardly anyone has ever heard of it, and it’s so much smaller than all the other dinosaurs. In the picture above, you can just make it out: it’s that tiny little thing just below the Plateosaurus (the big purple thing) that’s bending over to much some plants.

Podokesaurus was discovered in 1910, in Massachusetts, by a Mt. Holyoke College geology professor and her sister, who were taking a walk together and happened to spot traces of bones in a boulder that had somehow split open–and what are the odds of that? The original fossil was destroyed in a fire in 1917, but the casts were saved; and in 1958 another Podokesaurus specimen was found. This one, scientists estimated, grew maybe up to nine feet long. The one found at the college was only three feet long.

When I was a little boy I used to gaze in fascination at pictures of this mural: must’ve spent hours doing it. This was another world. I couldn’t tear myself away.

Nowadays Zallinger’s renderings of dinosaurs are considered wildly inaccurate; but in 1947 they were Settled Science.

One thing about Podokesaurus–it was small enough to hide. Keep your eyes peeled, next time you go camping.


It’s Tanystropheus Time!

All right, I give up on the nooze today, I totally give up. I’m old enough to remember when serious people used to run for president, but now it’s a freak show. I know it’s part of my job to cover nooze, but I’m sick of writing about these people. Bob Knight has a column on townhall.com today about questions he’d ask them if he were moderating one of their debates. I would ask, in addition to those, the following:

“What are you doing out of your straitjacket?”

“How many times a day do you sing ‘Imagine’?”

“What terrible thing happened to you in your childhood, to make you turn out like this?”

And so enough’s enough. And that means… well, what time is it, boys and girls? What time is it?

It’s Tanystropheus time!

I’m so happy I finally found one of these in an unexplored, uninhabited region of Lintum Forest. I don’t bother with the evolution fairy tales: this animal was just plain cool. Nothing like it before or since. It makes its debut in the story I’m currently writing, The Wind From Heaven–which, I say, is galloping like mad to some destination yet unknown to me. I can hardly wait to see what happens next.


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