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Why did the dinosaurs win? Dominance is seen through a human lens. Fish are more diverse than dinosaurs, and insects are more diverse than fish. We often assume dinosaurs did well all the time, but that was not always the case. If we took a snapshot in time we would not think mammals would become dominant during the age dinosaurs. The same goes for our current age of humans. Mammals and birds are more diverse than us, and we cannot assume our own dominance. What would happen if the climate changed? We cannot rest on our laurels!
This title is under the Peabody Collection
The Opening Line
Two-hundred and fifty-nine people sat around the dais on the highest level of the towering, round, Sept. They barricaded the windows, encrusting the gaps with four layers of woven sheet metal. No light could come in, and the nine scientists began their rounds around the circular room. Each held a lantern, and placed the swirling orbs of light within the tightly shut confines of their fiber glass chambers, before setting them up against the vaulted sky window, sealed shut in black. Neither of them, nor the spectators, paid any heed to the shaking glass cage, now made visible by the whispers of silvery-blue vapors flooding the aerie, though its periodic cries have so often broken the blank silence of the reverberating chamber for the past hour.
Unmarked by the multiple rounds of unmoving shadows around her, the examiner began. The black shroud of bandages enveloping the cage was removed. The scaly, monstrous creature lay down prostrate in a sunken heap. Each of its fearsome clawed limbs collapsed outwards to its side, and the eye that once bore greatness and power now wearied of stunted anger.
She called. It was in a tongue unknown to the audience. But the shadows knew what was going on, for they prepared the procedure. Across the time span of an era two hundred million years ago, they have aggregated every trait and member of that surprising species into the supreme subject. They gave him no name, so they simply referred to him as the synecdoches Dromic. And that very appellation moved on with each successive subject.
Thus in uniform rhythm of tumbling gears, the glass dome descended from the shielded sky doors, like a pronouncement of judgment before the shadowed faces. A heaving thud and his fate was played. Silvery mist enclosed the far reaches of the dome, and suffocated the specimen from sight. It was another ten percent drop. But there was no further change in the creature’s eyes. It simply looked up at the swirling crystals, and placed his head back down as his body remained tightly clenched, with a final shiver.
The body was carted away. Beneath was another cage within the dome, whose face remained unseen. It lived for today. But his warm-blooded veins may not survive tomorrow’s trial. Dragged away, he gave a piteous moan before the hatch underneath opened to serve the next subjects.
Next came four columns, sliding out from the center to form a ring, as the central pedestal emerged and unfolded sideways to two ends of the room to form a long runway. The same creature reappeared on one end, and another on the other. They looked confused, prowling around with their four limbs moving in the most incongruent way possible, looking at the other with a timorous glance. The sky doors broke the silence, and dropped a smaller version of their own selves in the ring.
With an unknown force of instinct, or the inevitable desire of his own preservation, Dromic ran towards the two, gearing his front legs with full force it made for a sorrowful sight. The other ran too, and their nervous eyes met each other in the ring. Dromic whipped his tail across the scaly neck of the other, striking the eye, jaw, and temple at the same time. He darted around. There it was. The two little ones. But the other came again. It bit him on his long, thin snout, enclosing its fangs around in a tightly shut noose and dragging the piercing fangs forwards and backwards and sideways till blood gushed from the three fountain tips and formed a pool on the floor. Yet Dromic himself pushed his snout forward in searing pain, and released his mouth from the fangs in causing pain to himself. He bit the arm, and wringed it off the creature as it fell backward into the far corner of the ring. Dromic looked around once more. He found them again. The two tender little younglings were crouched under nook of the North column, and uttered babyish cries at having found the crocodile. Dromic leaned down, and stared at the two pairs of eyes shining at him. He then crushed them with his forelimbs. He was about to dine, when the other came around and gnashed the side of his skull with its teeth. It ate all three of them.
They were pleased. They had found the weak spot. It gave them an answer. The blood was cleaned meticulously by three of the cloaked shadows, and the apparatus went back down through the hatch. All looked on to witness the next experiment.
A large sluice in the North corner creaked upwards, allowing hundreds of different fauna to slide across the floor of the Sept, passing through the shadows as they went along, each encased in a half-dome terrarium of its own prison. There were ten Dromics around, and ten Others. The remaining were filled with all sorts of unknown species, some bigger than the two combined. Each sought to find his own corner, and darted around anxiously in such flurry the entire chamber was filled with an intense chaos of glass zipping in and out of the shadows, where they well knew would have no escape. And so the games began.
None of the creatures reacted to the fizzling of the glass domes, as they were already in their dying throes. Limb was upon limb, snout was upon snout, tail was upon tail, and wing was upon wing. The Dromics fared well, making clean kills of every crawling being they came across. But the cloaked shadows decided to change the rules. They sent a sharp and protracted frost through the room, and covered the chamber with a steep chillness. One by one, the Dromics began to weary, while the Others took advantage and filled in their niches, hunting everyone else down. The shadows have discovered the replacement.
They stood up, and closed the experiment. Each of them came up to inspect the dangling half-strewn innards and blood on the floor and walls. One by one, the pieces of metal were removed from the windows and ceiling, and bits of light started streaming into the Sept to indicate the first rays of the morning flooding out the starlight. They were still shadows, and gathered to around the circular chute in the center of the floor to watch the fate of the worlds below. A single piece of land extending over the waters of the great Earth. A place of beauty and continual design. A nest where life is shaped by extinctions in the game of chance.
Why did the crocodiles lose their prime title to the dinosaurs? Many theories abound but the most realistic is luck, chance, and the theory of continual design through mass extinctions.