Who Doesn’t Love Dinosaurs?
by Suzanne Willis
Who doesn’t love dinosaurs? I was so excited to find out that “D is for Dinosaur” – for me, those creatures of distant history have the power to endlessly fire the imagination and to bring back childhood memories. Like a primary school excursion to the museum and seeing the enormous, time-browned bones of a T-Rex and triceratops, their wickedly sharp horns and teeth and claws reminiscent of dragons. Those shapes were proof that strange, almost-mythical creatures had existed and it felt as though they gave permission for the creatures of the stories that I loved so much – dragons and mermaids, wood nymphs and chimera – to exist, too. Then there was the long-ago day outing with family friends, one of whom – a boy around my age, which was seven or eight at the time – was blind. He brought along his large collection of toy dinosaurs and fascinated me by being able to identify each one just by feeling their shapes. It was the first time I realised that there were ways of experiencing the world that were so different to my own – the first time my view of life was punctured by someone else’s reality.
And so here was the chance to revisit dinosaurs, which had been a source of fascination and wonder so long ago. Sparks of possible tales popped up, and I began with notes such as “ghost landscapes”, “opalised bones” and “giants made of rock and rainforest pitted against one another?”. Then there was brainstorming and research to shape the initial ideas: I spent a glorious afternoon going through “Dinosaurs: a visual encyclopedia” by DK Publishing, making notes about stromatolites, archaeopteryx (the link between avian dinosaurs and modern birds), pterosaurs, placoderms, ammonite fossils, griffinflies, amber. Other resources that taught me about Mary Anning, who made a huge contribution to palaeontology, and science generally, through her work in Jurassic marine fossils on the coast of Dorset, England, in the 1800s. Being a woman, she did not receive full credit for her work during her lifetime, but was lauded after her death, into the 20th century and beyond. Seriously, if you’re not familiar with Mary Anning’s story, take some time to read up on her!
In reacquainting myself with my love of dinosaurs and natural history, I began to think about the connection between past and present, and about all those things that time has eroded away, so will forever remain undiscovered, and how future finds will alter those matters we currently accept as truth about that long-distant past.
And so Pax and his kin, and the gliders who were their enemies, the dinosaurs of the in-between, were born…
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