About Parry and Carney
Since Life first stirred in Precambrian pools, since those first organic molecules, progenitors of genes, began crudely to make copies of themselves, one Darwinian principle has guided biological evolution: the race is to those best at replication.
The first cells began to metabolize, channeling energy toward that all-important purpose of replication. Some gleaned energy from solar or geothermal forces. Others found another source of energy: other cells. The predator was born. Devouring began.
As Precambrian wore on into Paleozoic, cells specialized and formed colonies: the plant, the fungus, the animal. New evolutionary strategies were formed, and the phylogenetic tree diversified. By the Mesozoic, one of the multitudinous branches of animals, of vertebrates, of terrestrial fish with legs, Tetrapoda, had established itself across the land. Among members of this branch were scaly reptiles, and from an unassuming reptile that had learned to run came a lineage that was to dominate that era.
The dinosaurs were carnivores, herbivores, omnivores, giants, dwarfs, robust, gracile. They were crested or horned or armored or sharp-toothed, or they ran … or some flew. For great periods of time, titan battled titan, but, in the end, only the little feathered fliers, the birds, survived.
But those titans left a legacy written in geological formations: bones, footprints, eggshells … dung. Cranium connects to cervical connects to dorsal connects to sacral, on to femur, tibia, metatarsal, phalanx, ungual. Impressions, great ichnite trackways, preserve the dance of predator and prey. Fossilized nests of long-dead families give a glimpse into their lives. And grisly remains of their diet lie in coprolites.
There are many things scientists do not fully understand about these prehistoric beasts. Were they warm-blooded, cold-blooded, or something in between? Did a meteorite kill all but the avians? When and where did each taxon originate: the theropods, the sauropods, the stegosaurs, ankylosaurs, ornithopods, ceratopsians? Were they sexually dimorphic, altricial, precocial, tachymetabolic, bradymetabolic? Who hunted, who browsed, who scavenged, and who did all three? Controversy and debate may never end.
But one thing is clear: they knew how to feed.
Mike Keesey has worked as a website developer, programming and animation teacher, paleo-technician, and illustrator. Born and raised in the Washington, D.C. area, he now lives in Los Angeles, and wishes that jobs that involve teaching paid as much as other ones.
Mr. Keesey runs a website, The Dinosauricon (http://dino.lm.com), devoted to dinosaur information and illustration.