When I was little I wanted to be a paleontologist. I also wanted to be an astronaut and a princess, but the fact that I am crummy at science but the kibosh on the first two and an accident of birth took care of the later. Still, the dreams are the important bit. I was watching that movie Up in the Air, about a man who travels to companies to fire employees, recently and there was a bit when he asked one of the terminated employees when it was that they gave up their dreams to work for corporate America. I am fairly certain that it was just to soothe the blow of being let go, but the point still remains that there are very few people who grow up thinking they want to do what they end up doing. Well, maybe the astronauts and movie stars, but not us regular folk.
But, that doesn’t mean that everyone has given up. I don’t really know the circumstances of the character in the film, he was a bit part with minimal character development, but he had gone to school for culinary arts before working 9 – 5 in an office. So he works 9 – 5 in an office, that doesn’t define who he is that’s what puts food on the table and pays the mortgage. Maybe he’s a world class chef in his spare time. Everyone grows up, whether they have done so subconciously or made a serious effort to propel themselves into adulthood, but that doesn’t mean we have to be mature, and it certainly doesn’t mean that we lose all our childhood interests.
I was in seventh grade when Jurassic Park came out in theatres and I was so enthralled with the idea that… well I actually don’t know how many times I saw it. Suffice it to say a lot. Annnnd, I still think it’s a brilliant film (bad sequels don’t sully the original!). But who saw that movie and didn’t immediately jump on the deinonychus, what Steven Spielberg would call a velociraptor, fan train? They were quick, and small, worked together, and above all that they were cunning. They painted a pretty killing machine. In reality… they are still pretty fucking badass, with their pack hunting and wicked sharp toe claws; who cares that they were smaller than the film depicted and were probably covered in feathers?
But, after watching countless educational programs and scouring the internet for dinosaur information (yes I am SO cool) my opinion has somewhat shifted to favor Tyrannosaur variety.
What’s that you say? Cliche? Well, maybe that’s true but there is a reason for that. In the majority of shows I’ve seen about dinosaurs the experts pretty much wet themselves with excitement over T-rex, and looking at the facts it’s honestly not that hard to see why. T-rex is pretty perfectly designed. It’s like evolution was trying to work it out over the years, creating large two legged carnivores like the smaller and earlier Allosaurus, or the contemporary though intellectually inferior Giganotosaurus that were effective in what needed doing; ie killing and eating herbivores, but then at the end of the Cretaceous period suddenly everything clicked into place and emerged a near perfect specimen of theropod, the aptly named Tyrannosaurus rex.
They are big, yes, but that doesn’t necessarily make them the best. Hulking beasts weren’t exactly rare in those days. Take sauropods for instance. Their only defense s their massive size and great big tails they can swing to take out the enemy. Sauropods are so large in fact that at least some species lay their eggs and then moved on leaving their young to fend for themselves. In direct contrast, the Tyrannosaurus rex were by all evidence very nurturing parents. They existed in familial groups with a mother, father, and their young, who they would fiercely protect from predators. And a young T-rex would pretty much have his pick of enemies, even herbivores would have good reason to not want a new fully grown Tyrannosaur running about.
And T-rex’s more noticeable attributes also herald his superiority. We’ll start with his eyes. Because of the placement of the Tyrannosaur’s eyes at the side of his head but still towards the front he was afforded 55° binocular range, and because of the shape of the eye socket it appears T-rex had an enlarged cornea which absorbed more light and would have given him vision better than the modern day hawk and 13 times better than the average human being.
Then, of course, there is smell. T-rex had enormous, resonating olfactory bulbs, which means that with one sniff T-rex could probably know exactly where everything in a wide range was. Prey, rotting left over meet, where waste had been left from other animals as well as himself, those sorts of things.
Sometimes T-rex is given a bad rap as having a small brain, well that might be true for it’s body weight, but compared to the other dinosaurs it was a good size, making T-rex one of the smartest guy’s around. Okay, so deinonychus is still smarter, but they probably never really used their brain power to open doors. The T-rex brain is larger than a human’s brain, unsurprising as he’s a bit larger than us, but certainly bigger than a walnut. His cerebrum was much smaller than our though, I guess we had to be superior in some ways.
The Tyrannosaur was also a fast runner for his day and age. With strong, muscular legs and a long, hefty tail to balance him the T-rex could run up to about 35 miles per hour, which… well it really doesn’t sound like much when that’s the average speed limit for a commercial street, but in the age of the dinosaurs he pretty much out-ran most of them.
Finally, T-rex’s teeth and jaws. They are clearly his crowning glory. With jaws designed to crush bone the T-rex didn’t even really have to separate away the flesh. Which probably saved a bunch of time. His teeth were various sizes so he could rip, tear, slice, and crunch. His longest side teeth were the approximate size of a banana. A banana. I mean… that really might seem not that big, but hold up a banana and imagine that thing eating you. Yeah, ow! But most fascinating about T-rex’s teeth is that some of them have tiny ridges up and down them. This would have caused flesh from previous meals to get caught and start to rot, causing a bacteria fest inside his mouth and causing permanent morning breath. This did have a function though, if a T-rex was then to bite an animal with even a mild not killing blow, the wound would more than likely grow septic and the afflicted dino would die. T-rex could then sniff him out and feast with minimal effort.
You have to admit all those things combined into one animal is pretty damned impressive. It’s just a shame that after evolution worked so hard to perfect this creature nature had her say and, after only a few million years, wiped out the lot. I suppose it’s not a total loss though, if they hadn’t disappeared we wouldn’t have had the chance to exist, and think, and learn, and dig up all these bones from the past that tell fascinating stories. Sure, I’m a dork, really… so is everyone. It’s just about finding the thing they’re dorky about. For me, it’s dinosaurs. And right now, T-rex. People make fun of his little arms… all I have to say is; with all that he does have, what the hell does he need arms for?