450 million years ago, the sea was infested with giant arthropods. Among those arthropods were Eurypterids or sea scorpions. Despite being called scorpions, these animals had no venom in their tails and instead used those tails like a fluke similar to dolphins or whales. Their segmented exoskeleton also aids them in their up-and-down swimming style with greater flexibility. They would use their large pincers to grab onto prey and tear it limb from limb. These creatures came in a wide variety of shapes and sizes. The largest was over ten feet long. Can you imagine? Some species of sea scorpion became the first lifeforms to crawl out of the sea onto dry land. These species had both gills and primitive lungs that absorbed oxygen directly into their blood. Sadly, there are no relatives like these animals alive in the modern world. As the conditions of the sea changed and fish became more prominent, the sea scorpions faded into extinction. However, I am thinking of including a creature that is similar to the sea scorpions in my dinosaur book. They won’t be like the sea scorpions of old, but they would be very similar with similar adaptations and lifestyles.
Among the modern arthropods that gave me inspiration for my giant insects would be the red crabs of Christmas Island and the robber crabs that hunt them. Every spawning season, the jungle floor is infested with over 45 million red crabs that march through the jungle to spawn in the sea. Along the way, some of these crabs are hunted down, killed, and eaten by the much larger robber crabs. Robber crabs are the largest land-based arthropods in the modern world, reaching up to a meter in length. That is pretty impressive by today’s standards even though the oxygen levels are half what they were during the Carboniferous Period 300 million years ago. As I wrote the creepy crawly scene in my dinosaur book, I envisioned arthropods that were even larger and nastier than these crabs. I can even see these crabs as being bountiful prey for small theropod dinosaurs that would snatch them off the jungle floor.
Allow me to give you an overview of the main character of my third fantasy book. I have given a lot of thought about what traits my protagonist would have compared to his forebears. I looked to other fantasy stories for inspiration and combined certain traits together into one character. Like Aegon the Conqueror from Game of Thrones, my character will command dragons to decimate armies. Like Ainz Ooal Gown from Overlord, my protagonist will be a powerful sorcerer who strikes fear into his enemies and allies alike. Like Leto II Atreides from the Dune series, my character’s immense power earns him the title of “God Emperor.” Like Anduin Wrynn from World of Warcraft, my protagonist will genuinely desire peace despite the unrivaled power he wields. Overall, as the story progresses, my main character will evolve into a powerful yet complex individual.
I have always liked the idea of a powerful warrior that is augmented by magic. One example includes General Glauca from Final Fantasy XV: Kingsglaive, who not only had immense endurance and could slay strong foes but also had armor that could repair itself. A second example would be Guts from Berserk, who became an unstoppable force when armed with both his Dragonslayer sword and Berserker Armor. A third example would be Lord Barst from the Inheritance Cycle, who was not only augmented by magic but was made impervious to it. A fourth example would be Gregor Clegane from Game of Thrones, who was augmented by Qyburn to such a degree that he needed to be incinerated in order to stay dead. Each of these characters were large and powerful warriors who could slay multiple foes with one blow. This physical prowess was enhanced even further with the help of magic, which made them nearly unstoppable. I am thinking of introducing a character of this archetype for my third fantasy book. My character will serve as the commander of a new kind of army.
I remember my trips to Hawaii over the years and the first thing that stood out was the island’s plants. I remember how the plants all seemed to be fused together into one giant mass. It was like looking at a vast network of life enveloping the island. I can see why the Jurassic Park movies were made here. It felt like the interconnecting plants were hiding something big behind their branches. There was always something that felt primeval about the jungles of Hawaii. A part of me thought: “If I look around that tree and there was a Triceratops behind it, I would not be surprised.” In a way, dinosaurs were on Hawaii because of the many chickens that lived on it. Out of the many birds that exist, the chicken is the closest living avian relative to dinosaurs. I am thinking of drawing inspiration from my interactions with both Hawaii’s jungles and chickens for my dinosaur series.
One of my all-time favorite documentaries on speculative evolution would be The Future is Wild, which depicts how animals could evolve in three different time zones. Like books such as After Man and The New Dinosaurs, this documentary was partially created by Douglas Dixon. This documentary really stimulates the mind and makes one wonder what is evolutionarily possible. In order to gain inspiration for my dinosaur zoology book, I have been rewatching this documentary in order to better understand the functionality of an animal’s adaptations and how they would cope with extreme environments. Just as medieval documentaries helped me with my fantasy series, these kinds of documentaries will help me with both my zoology book and my dinosaur series as a whole.
From the Permian Period to the early Triassic Period, mammal-like reptiles came in all shapes and sizes. Some were large and powerful predators such a Gorgonops while others became small yet adaptable survivors like Diictodon. I like Diictodon because it was a soul-crushingly cute little critter that resembled a scaly gopher with tiny tusks. If they remade Caddyshack, I would love to see Bill Murray try to chase a Diictodon across a golf course with C4. Despite being reptiles, Diictodon possessed a number of traits in common with its mammal descendants such as living in burrows and developing an inner ear. Their adaptability is what has allowed Diictodon and its descendants to survive the Permian mass extinction. In my dinosaur series, I am planning to introduce a reverse engineered mammal-like reptile that lives a similar lifestyle to Diictodon. Instead of gophers, I will be drawing inspiration from the naked mole rat or the shrew. Despite being in an ecosystem full of dinosaurs and monsters, I think something as small and cute as Diictodon would be a nice ray of sunshine.
When people think about mass extinctions, they often think about the one that wiped out the dinosaurs. However, even though the dinosaur extinction is the most famous mass extinction, it did not have the biggest body count. The mass extinction with the highest death toll took place right before the first dinosaurs evolved during the Permian Period. It was an event that came to be known as the Great Dying. Over ninety percent of all life on Earth was wiped out. Fossil records suggest that the Permian Period was a time of intense climate change that was caused by constant volcanic activity. The volcanic activity was so extreme that it produced enough lava to fill the Grand Canyon SEVEN TIMES!!! The volcanoes also released bountiful fumes into the atmosphere, which caused unstable climate change that superheated the planet and acid rain that devastated marine ecosystems. When the dust settled, the few surviving creatures were left with little competition and even fewer predators. As a result, some creatures became quite successful as the Earth healed itself. One such example is the mammal-like reptile known as Lystrosaurus, which eventually made up half of all large land animals for seven million years. However, even though these mammal-like reptiles would initially be successful, their group fell into decline until they died out completely shortly after the dinosaurs appeared. Overall, the Permian mass extinction was when life on Earth was almost extinguished. I am thinking of drawing inspiration from the Permian mass extinction for my dinosaur series, but the death toll for the book’s mass extinction will be higher.
When I started my dinosaur book, I wondered what the first reverse engineered dinosaur would look like and how big it would be. When Jack Horner introduced the idea of the experiment, he thought about starting with a chicken. As I thought about this, I realized that, both in real life and in my book, the first true dinosaur to exist in sixty-five million years would resemble a Compsognathus. I think this is a pragmatic expectation of what the first reverse engineered dinosaur would look like since Compsognathus was the same size as a chicken. When I was a kid, I used to listen to this song, “Compsognathus, Small As A Chicken.” It is as Michael Fassbender famously said in Prometheus: “Big things have small beginnings.” I can already envision what this new dinosaur will look like and I will be drawing inspiration from my encounters with chickens.
One of the most famous success stories of evolution are sharks. They have inhabited the Earth’s oceans for four hundred million years, long before the dinosaurs. The key to their success is the simplicity of both their biology and lifestyle. The story of evolution is survival of the fittest and the simplest life form is often the strongest. Their bodies are very streamlined and ideal for swimming and their teeth and jaws are ideal for tackling all kinds of prey. Their lifestyle is so simple that all they do throughout their lifetimes is swim, eat, and reproduce and that’s it! Their success is what has allowed sharks to survive one mass extinction level event after another. It is very likely that sharks will continue to exist long after humanity has gone extinct. Fishermen can try to overfish and exterminate sharks, but the sharks will ultimately outlast mankind just as they did the dinosaurs. I will be featuring a reverse engineered shark in my dinosaur book and I will be drawing inspiration from a prehistoric species of shark called Hybodus, which means “humped tooth”. Hybodus was able to survive the Jurassic oceans for two reasons. First, the spikes on its fins gave it protection against large predators like pliosaurs. Second, Hybodus had two different kinds of teeth; sharp teeth for slicing through fish and squid and another set that was flat for crushing shellfish and crustaceans. This allowed Hybodus to thrive on a wide variety of prey in the competitive sea. I will also be drawing inspiration from other sharks I have learned about on Shark Week. I should give you a heads up that I will not be including a Megalodon-like shark in my dinosaur book since not even the scientists in the story will go that far.