Did you know that the stegosaurus had a brain the size of a walnut, or that there used to be scorpions that grew to more than two meters in length? Do you want to know which prehistoric animals dinosaurs used to be afraid of? Amaze you friends by telling them about feathered dinosaurs, giant millipedes. and flying giraffes! This book is packed with the wildest, weirdest, funniest, filthiest, foulest, wisest, grossest, brainiest, oldest. and best facts about the prehistoric world.
About the Author
Chris Mitchell is the author of The Breaking Bad Cookbook.
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Do Dinosaurs Make Good Pets?
By Chris Mitchell, Andrew Pinder
John Blake Publishing LtdCopyright © 2015 Chris Mitchell
All rights reserved.
In the Beginning
4.54 billion years. That's how old the Earth is! But it hasn't always looked the way it does now. Think about the oldest, crustiest teacher you have ... do you think they have always looked that old and crusty? No, even if it might seem that way, they haven't.
The difference is that, while your teacher has become grey, haggard, and probably with hair growing out of all sorts of places it shouldn't, the Earth is now beautiful, with deep blue seas and luscious green jungles. But when it was first created it wasn't the sort of place you would have liked to be living at all.
When the Earth first formed it didn't have a moon. In fact, the Moon formed quite late, about sixty million years after the Earth. Over the years, many people have tried to explain the Moon and how it got there, and there have been some pretty wacky theories put forward by humans ... not least the one where people believe that the Moon is an abandoned spaceship!
The most likely explanation scientists have come up with is pretty cool though. It's called the Giant Impact Hypothesis, and the idea is that another planet the size of Mars smashed into the Earth one day. It's hard to imagine how big the explosion was, but it would have been more than one billion times bigger than a nuclear bomb – so big that, if it happened now, the entire world would melt!
In the course of the explosion a chunk of the Earth was blown right off, and when the space dust had quite literally settled, voila! There was the Moon.
Back in those days, not only was the grass not green (there was no grass – life hadn't formed yet), but also the sky wasn't blue. Because the Earth's atmosphere hadn't formed yet, everywhere would probably have simply been black.
Over time, and by 'time' I mean almost one billion years – which is a long time even by dinosaur standards – the Earth cooled, oceans began to form and clouds would have started floating around the sky. Earth still wouldn't have been a pleasant place, though, because if you weren't getting rained on by corrosive acid, you would have been either freezing your bottom off or boiling to death – by now the Earth would most likely have been an ice planet with a lot of very active volcanoes. And what's more, the smell wasn't getting any better.
Fortunately, there was nothing alive on Earth to worry about all of those problems. Nothing, that is, until ...CHAPTER 2
It is one of the great unsolved scientific mysteries: how was life formed? Even in my great learnatorium, my Assistant Learnatours and I are unable to create molecules as complex as those that make up even simple life.
Then again, I don't have hundreds of millions of years to get it right. I'm sure if I did then I could crack it.
Life began with very simple single-celled organisms – meaning that they were so tiny that their whole 'body' was literally just one cell. To put that into context, a human is about 100 trillion cells (and a T-rex is a whole lot more), so these little critters don't seem all that special. But they were!
So far, the Earth is the only place in the universe where we know that life exists. Although most scientists, including myself, the great Dr Dino, think that the universe is most likely teeming with life throughout all of its galaxies, for now the Earth is the liveliest place in existence – and that makes us pretty special! So how did it all happen?
The oldest living thing, or rather the oldest thing scientists have found that was once alive, is a fossilised 'microbial mat' – a large group of tiny single-celled organisms all living together in a group. It is 3.48 billion years old, only one billion years younger than the Earth itself!
Even though these microbes are only a single cell and don't even have a nucleus (like a cell's brain), they are quite advanced in some ways. We scientists think that life was around for hundreds of millions of years before even this microbial mat.
The Earth has been home to life for almost four billion years, so it's natural to think the world has been teeming with life ever since then. However, life took its time to get going. For three billion years, nothing ever evolved further than only being single cell-sized. It's only recently – well, about one billion years ago – that the first organism evolved into something with not one, but two cells. It probably felt as big as I do spending every day surrounded by puny humans.
Oxygen is, of course, key to animals' survival, and wecan't live without it for more than a couple of minutes. But the early atmosphere didn't contain oxygen, so how did it get there? Most of the earliest organisms made energy by photosynthesising (meaning that they made energy from carbon dioxide and produced oxygen, which is what plants do now). Gradually, oxygen became a bigger and bigger part of the world – great news for evolution and humans (and the smell)!
Unfortunately, it was very bad news for the organisms already alive ... Just as carbon dioxide is poisonous for humans, oxygen was deathly toxic to them. The more they breathed, the more they poisoned themselves, and pretty soon all of the original organisms simply became extinct.CHAPTER 3
My Family (and Other Animals)
Forget the Stone Age, the Bronze Age, the Iron Age ... The greatest age of all was the Golden Age – the Age of the Dinosaurs. (NOTE: The Golden Age isn't the official scientific name for this period, but I'm lobbying my fellow scientific community hard to change it.) Humans might rule the world right now, but they have only been in charge of the Earth for a few thousand years. Dinosaurs were in charge for 135 MILLION YEARS. So before you humans start to think too much of yourselves, try to remember that you've only been around for a mere blink of the eye compared to the dinos.
My family, the dinosaurs, first appeared around 227 million years ago. I miss those glorious days so much! It's a common mistake – one which your teachers are bound to make – to think that all of the dinosaurs appeared at once and all lived together at the same time. That couldn't be more wrong, as you will see if you come to visit my learnatorium. We were around for 160 million years, and that's a very long time, even for a dinosaur, so it's not surprising dinosaurs changed and evolved over that period.
Most of the early dinosaurs were small and quick, like the Chindesaurus, a meat-eating dinosaur about four metres in size with long legs and a whip-like tail. Just like humans, I only know about the Chindesaurus from fossils, because the last one died about 210 million years ago, and the first Tyrannosaurus rex wasn't born until 67 million years ago – so we missed each other by over 140 million years!
Before we delve any deeper into the secrets of the prehistoric zone of my learnatorium, we should go over some dino basics, because your teachers will probably have told you a number of incorrect things about my family, and it's up to me to correct them.
Did Humans Live with Dinosaurs?
NO! And any films, TV shows, books or anything else that tells you different is wrong. About sixty-five million years separate the end of the Age of the Dinosaurs from the first human. Of course, I live quite happily alongside other humans, but that's because I'm a peaceful and wise T-rex. Not all of my ancestors were as calm as I am, so it's probably a good thing for humans that they weren't around when dinosaurs were.
Were Dinosaurs Alone on the Earth?
Far from it. Although dinosaurs were the dominant species, just like humans are now, they shared the Earth with all sorts of creatures. Early mammals, reptiles like crocodiles, insects and all kinds of other creatures lived at that time as well. In fact, dinosaurs are just part of a larger group called archosaurs, and there were many different 'saurs' running around with them – and they have often been mistaken for dinosaurs.
The most famous case of stolen dino identity is the pterodactyl, which you will probably have been taught by your teacher was a flying dinosaur. Wrong! It's actually a pterosaur, of course. Just don't ask for the difference between a dinosaur and a pterosaur because the answer is complicated and, quite honestly, boring. Even to me, and I'm a dinosaur!
How Big Were Dinosaurs?
Humans think of dinosaurs as being enormous, and some, like me, are very big. However, while there were some absolute giants who could squish a human with one large foot, the majority were much smaller – mostly only one metre long, for example. It's hard for humans to know exactly how many dinosaurs were that small, for the simple reason that you learn about dinosaurs through fossils, and big fossils survive much better than small ones. The chances are, though, that most of the dinosaurs you would come across on an afternoon stroll in the Jurassic era would have been smaller than even you.
Why Did Dinosaurs Die?
I don't like to talk about the extinction of the dinosaurs – it's very painful for me. Although there are a number of different theories about why we died off, the best one you humans have come up with is that a massive asteroid, about ten miles long, crash-landed on earth with enough force that most dinosaurs would have been killed immediately in the explosion. Any that managed to survive would have died off later in the decades-long 'winter' that the extra ash and space debris in the atmosphere would have caused.
A truly awful end to a splendid species.
Was That the End of the Dinosaurs?
Well, it can't have been, because I'm here writing this book and teaching humans the wonders of the universe in my learnatorium! But I'm something of a special case, of course.
However, I'm technically not the only dinosaur around on Earth today. In fact, there are far more dinosaurs than there are humans! Every bird you see has evolved from a branch of dinosaurs hundreds of millions of years ago, and they are, scientifically speaking, still dinosaurs – which makes me feel a lot less lonely. And it means that if you've ever had a pet parrot or budgie then you've actually had a pet dinosaur!CHAPTER 4
Post-Dinosaur Pandemonium Part One
After the worst period in the Earth's history – the dinosaurs' catastrophic extinction – came a lot of opportunities for all sorts of animals to take their place and try their hands, paws, claws and whatever else they had, at being the top animal on Earth. Here's a selection, which I've split into three chapters, of my favourite animals who came after my family. (This list could go on forever – there have been millions of different and exciting species over the years. If you want to come and do some of your own research, feel free to visit my learnatorium.) Unfortunately, these animals are all now extinct ... although after reading a bit about them you might be quite happy about that!
Gastornis – This six-foot tall prehistoric bird certainly wasn't the biggest meat-eating bird, but it might have been one of the most dangerous. Alive about fifty million years ago, it reminds me a bit of myself, with enormously powerful legs and jaws (and teeth!) but small arms. Some scientists have thrown up theories that it might have actually been vegetarian, but I think they are just jealous of how powerful its bite was and how much like a T-rex it was too.
Diprotodon – This marsupial – what we scientists call mammals who carry their babies in pouches, like kangaroos – only died off around 46,000 years ago, probably killed by humans hunting it for its meat! It was basically a giant wombat, and it was the largest marsupial that the Earth has ever seen, growing to about three metres long. Fortunately for the hunting humans, it was a herbivore, so it didn't eat meat, which made their job a lot easier!
Plesiadapis – Living around sixty million years ago, this was one of the earliest primates and therefore an ancestor of you, most likely. A funny-looking creature, it had the head of a rat but the body of a lemur and teeth suited to gnawing on anything from nuts and seeds to insects and small animals.
Glyptodon – This giant armadillo lived in swampy South America and survived for around two million years until just 10,000 years ago. The main difference between the glyptodon and modern-day armadillos was its size ... it could grow to ten feet long! Despite being a giant, it was fairly timid and rather than fight it would curl up under its enormous and spiky shell for protection. That obviously wasn't enough, though, because humans hunted the glyptodon to extinction – and to add insult to injury, not only did the humans eat the glyptodons, but they also used the shells as huts to live in!
Anthropornis – Nowadays, penguins are cute fluffy little animals that spend their days sliding on ice and diving for fish. The anthropornis was an entirely different creature: a giant penguin that could grow to two metres tall and weighed as much as 200 pounds, basically the size of a tall human. Luckily for humans, this giant bird also munched on fish, not mammals, and lived about forty-five million years ago.
Embolotherium – These giant mammals lived forty million years ago and looked truly fearsome. A little like rhinos today, they grew three metres high and six metres long, and had a massive bony horn growing on their nose which gave them their name; 'embolotherium' translates to mean 'battering ram beast'. Although you wouldn't have wanted to get in the way of one while it was charging, these beasts were also herbivores, so their bark was worse than their bite. Although the bite was still pretty bad.
Dromornis – The dromornis is closely related to the duck and the goose, but if you came across it at the duck pond you would undoubtedly turn tail and run the other way! It was around for fifteen million years and only died off about 30,000 years ago, and it only really lived in Australia, but it grew to three metres tall and while it didn't have powerful claws like I do (which makes typing very difficult, let me tell you) its beak was so strong it could crush a human skull in an instant.
Pristichampsus – Although the most important reptiles – dinosaurs – all died off in the great extinction event of sixty-five million years ago, there was one type of reptile that thrived, and indeed is still thriving today: the crocodile. The pristichampsus was a type of crocodile that carried on the good work of the dinosaurs, namely eating mammals. This ten-foot-long croc was different from those found today because it was adapted to live on land, with hooves for example, and lived in the jungle where it scuttled around looking for prey. While normally walking on all fours, when sprinting it would rear up onto two legs, which would make it a three-metre-tall eating machine – pretty terrifying to think about (for mammals at least)!
Phiomia – This animal was the first to start growing a trunk, and it was the beginning of a line of creatures that led to the modern-day elephant. Growing to about three metres tall, it only had a small trunk and short tusks – an elephant would probably be embarrassed to be seen with a trunk that small nowadays. Nevertheless, these forty million-year-old beasts could still pack quite a punch if they charged at you.
Rhamposuchus – The largest crocs around today can grow to around six metres long, but that's nothing compared to the rhamposuchus. This reptile lived around twenty million years ago and could grow to a whopping twelve metres, twice as big as the biggest crocodiles now. It looked a bit like a giant gharial, an animal which is around today, and just its snout alone would have been over a metre long and filled with sharp teeth. A frightening proposition for anything swimming in rivers and swamps twenty million years ago!CHAPTER 5
The Earth Moves
It's very easy to think of the Earth as unchanging. After all, if you leave a house, a stadium, a learnatorium or anything else then you know that when you come back it will be right there where you left it. And the same goes for hills, mountains, lakes and rivers. Unfortunately, all of that is wrong. The Earth is actually moving the whole time – and I'm not just talking about the 67,000 miles per hour that we are flying through space at.
Underneath your feet, and my claws, is a huge boiling, bubbling mass of magma, which is rock and metal that is constantly shifting around. I won't get into too many of the boring details – I'll leave that to your teachers – but the Earth is a little bit like an onion, with many layers: the crust, the mantle, the outer core and the inner core.
Because of the way that the Earth is built, the mantle creates convection currents (very hot and powerful blasts of air) which are so strong that they actually cause the crust of the Earth to move. Of course, it doesn't move very quickly – you would notice it if it did – but on average the surface of the Earth shifts about an inch every year.
Excerpted from Do Dinosaurs Make Good Pets? by Chris Mitchell, Andrew Pinder. Copyright © 2015 Chris Mitchell. Excerpted by permission of John Blake Publishing Ltd.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Table of Contents
In the Beginning,
My Family (and Other Animals),
Post-Dinosaur Pandemonium Part One,
The Earth Moves,
The Dinocyclopedia Part One,
More than Monkeys?,
The Dinocyclopedia Part Two,
Deadlier Than a Dinosaur?,
Post-Dinosaur Pandemonium Part Two,
The Dinocyclopedia Part Three,
Awesome Aquatic Animals,
Post-Dinosaur Pandemonium Part Three,