Give Me a Mesozoic Mind


That’s a rhabdodon. I’d never heard of this one when I was a kid. It was kind of a dwarf iguanadon.

If you knew me when I was three or four years old, you know that I was into dinosaurs. I mean, like, really into them. I had five stuffed dinosaurs that I slept with every night. I had piles of books talking about them, and another bunch of them that I got from the library. It didn’t matter if I already knew everything the book had to tell me, I still had to read it. It became a yearly tradition in our family to drive to the Sloan Museum in Flint to see an annual exhibit filled with animatronic dinosaurs. The last time we went (maybe in 1992) they had to move the exhibit to a mall,  because that year they had created a life-size Tyrannosaurus. That mamma was 25 ft. tall, so big that they actually had to remove part of the ceiling to fit it in.

It’s surprisingly difficult to be into dinosaurs as an adult, and not just because it makes you look like a three-year old. The tough part is that it’s really hard to find good books on prehistoric life for adults, or at least ones that aren’t basically textbooks. So my dinosaur fandom waned, mostly limited to watching Jurassic Park so many times that I memorized it. I’m not sure if I grew out of it, or if it just was dormant. But one thing’s for sure, it’s definitely hereditary. Because my three-year-old son has discovered how cool dinosaurs are, and I think it’s pretty much the only thing he talks about now.

This is a fulfillment of a dream for me, because I really wanted him to like dinosaurs. That’s how I wanted to decorate his room when we were getting ready for his birth, but we couldn’t find the right stuff and had to settle for a jungle theme. We did buy him a stuffed T-Rex at a “Build-A-Dinosaur” store before he was born, something we repeated with his little brother for his first birthday just a month or so ago. I remembered all of the joy dinosaurs brought me at that age, and I instinctively knew that he would love them.

I was right on the money, by the way. His favorite show now is not Yo Gabba Gabba or Dexter’s Laboratory. It’s Walking With Dinosaurs, the BBC miniseries that’s on Netflix. It’s a nature program with dinosaurs, complete with stuffy narration from Kenneth Branagh and late-90s CGI. But he loves it so much. He knows things about dinosaurs that I never even conceived of, such as the fact that velociraptors likely had feathers and that there’s basically no such thing as a brontosaurus. He knows crazy dinosaurs like postosuchus and rhabdodon. Did you know that there was a dinosaur called minmi? Also, he likes to play the dinosaur guessing game, where he describes what kind of dinosaur he is and makes us guess. He’s good at it too.

It’s wonderful not just to see him enjoy dinosaurs so much, but to learn a bunch myself. A lot of advances have been made in the field of paleontology since I was his age, and it’s surprising how much insight I can get from an episode of Dinosaur Train. I suspect that when I eventually let him watch Jurassic Park, we’ll have a grand old time of pointing out all of the scientific inaccuracies.


5 thoughts on “Give Me a Mesozoic Mind

  1. I always liked how the T-Rex teleports (ninja style) into the visitor center at the end of the movie. After all, there were no concussive echoing to herald the incoming T-Rex. Also, there were no openings remotely close to large enough to admit the T-Rex.

  2. Try my dad’s classic 80s book, “The New Dinosaurs”, or his newer book, “Dinosaur Discoveries”! Just search “stout dinosaurs” on amazon or whatever. Both are written for adults but have been enjoyed by kids just fine for years. You know kids, they’re smarter than you think. And the Dinosaur Discoveries book is all brand-newly discovered dinosaurs, including stuff your kid probably doesn’t know!

    Saying that there’s “basically no such thing as a brontosaurus” is misleading, that’s just not the official name for it anymore. The actual dinosaur didn’t change or go anywhere. If you’re interested in the nasty, cutthroat history behind the name, there’s actually a whole comic about it, called “Bone Sharps, Cowboys, and Thunder Lizards”.

    • That book looks awesome! I might have to put that one on the Christmas list for him.

      I clearly misunderstood the brontosaurus/apatosaurus controversy. I was under the impression that brontosaurus was at this point kind of a pop culture thing, a dinosaur that was misidentified and became a meme (in the true sense of the word) even after it all was straightened out. Super fascinating either way. I’ll need to check out that comic.

      • “The Dinosaurs” (or the 2000 edition with a few extra pages, “The New Dinosaurs”) remains the work of my father’s that I still most enjoy and appreciate myself. It’s full of ambition and experiments, before he had a calcified “style”.

        I would also recommend my dad’s “Little Blue Brontosaurus”, which bears a…striking resemblance to the later Land Before Time, but that book is wildly out-of-print and expensive.

  3. Who cares about waiting until June 2015 for a sequel to JP4? Spielberg and company have been searching for a suitable script for 11+ years, Recently published, “Re-Creating the Cretaceous: A Tale of Survival” is the real thing. It’s an original story, witty and even barbed in places, which runs circles around the JP4 sequels and it more than holds its own against the original JP novel. This is a story which Hollywood does not want you to read. Based upon the most recent DNA genome research, its story is not only well researched but also plausible. Forget the splicing of dino DNA with amphibian DNA, extraction of dino DNA from mosquitoes preserved in amber, and the cloning of lysine deficient female dinos. “Re-Creating the Cretaceous also introduces numerous recent discoveries of new dino species, including the cryolophosaur and australovenator, and smoothly incorporates them into its tightly woven story. For the very first time, it also introduces numerous species of marine dinosaurs in a realistic manner. The only thing to quibble with in the story is the velociraptors sans feathers are still the size of a deinonychus, not the height of a tom (male) turkey as they should have been in reality. If you read Spanish, a slightly revised Spanish language version in in the works. The velociraptors will be both properly sized and have feathers. Utahraptors will take their place in other parts.. The English edition is available now from all Amazon sites worldwide, as well as Barnes & Noble online and in Nook,Kindle and iPad e-book formats, “Re-Creating the Cretaceous” will make you not only forget the 13 year wait until 2015, but also the so-so actors and paltry scripts being foisted upon moviegoers.


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