Realm of Reptiles

From Issue: Discovery 08/01/2001

Learning about dinosaurs pro­ vides many of us with hours of enjoyment. We see them in movies, on television, and in books or magazines. These “terribly great lizards” amaze us with their massive size, huge teeth, horned faces, and spiked tails. But even more amazing than the dinosaurs is a God that could design and create such marvelous creatures. Every movie you see, television show you watch, or book you read about dinosaurs took intelligent people many hours to produce. But God spoke the dinosaurs into existence on a single day. Learning about these fascinating creatures shows us how powerful God really is.


With three horns poking out of its face, it is not difficult to discover how this dinosaur was named. It is a member of a group of dinosaurs known as the Ceratopsians, which means “ones with a horn.” Triceratops means “three-horned face.” As a herbivore (plant-eater), Triceratops (weighing about 10,000 pounds) probably traveled in herds, feeding on ground vegetation like grass. The two long horns on the animal’s brow might have been used to pull tree limbs closer to the beast’s mouth so that it could eat the foliage. And if any predator wanted to try and make a meal out of a Triceratops, he first would have to deal with the long horns-backed by 5 tons of raging reptile.


As one of the largest animals ever to walk the face of the Earth, the Brachiosaurus could pretty well do whatever it wanted. Weighing in at over 40 tons, this giant could grow to be 82 feet long and 40 feet high (about the height of a three-story building). Due to its colossal size, an adult brachiosaurus probably had no natural enemies. These animals most likely journeyed in herds and must have been a sight to behold.


The large plates on the Stegosaurus’ back made the reptile very easy to recognize. However, finding out what those plates were used for is not such an easy task. The plates were made of a very thin bone filled with many holes that contained blood vessels. These thin bones probably could not have been used for protection. So what did they do? Some people think that the plates allowed the dinosaur to warm its body temperature by putting the plates into the sunshine and sending blood through them. Others think that the blood could turn the plates a bright pink or red color to scare off potential predators or attract a mate. We probably will never know exactly what the plates did, but we can be pretty sure about one thing-the spikes on the Stegosaurus’ tail weren’t just for looks. Any meat­ eater who wanted a “stegosandwich” might end up with a severe stab wound!




Even though many of the reptiles were monstrous, this little guy was about the size of a small dog. He weighed only about 6 pounds and grew to be only about 3 feet long from head to tail. His name means “elegant jaw.” The small jaw was filled with many little sharp teeth that probably were used to eat small animals like other small lizards or rodents (yes, there would have been rodents around then, just like there are now, because dinosaurs like Compsognathus were made on day six of creation-the same day as rodents).


Of course, no list of dinosaurs would be complete without mentioning the T. Rex. Its name means ”king tyrant lizard;’ and what a tyrant it probably was. Weighing as much as an elephant and standing about two stories high, this 40-foot­ long beast could have terrorized any neighborhood. About 60 huge, 7-inch teeth filled its vicious mouth. These serrated “steak-knife” teeth curved inward so that huge chunks of meat could be pulled from its prey. Some scientists estimate that the T. Rex could chomp a piece of meat weighing 500 pounds in a single bite.

 On the other hand, some people are not quite convinced that T. Rex was much of a threat after all. In fact, some people seem to think that this lizard might have been a scavenger or “garbage collector,” like a vulture or opossum. Several reasons exist for such a view. For one, T. Rex’s little front arms were not big enough to capture anything. Another reason is that its body was huge and it could not have run fast for very long. However, whether or not ”king tyrant lizard” was a huge predator or a scavenger, I don’t think I would want to meet a hungry one in a dark field late at night, would you?


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