Lolita — Ready to attack
STORY NOTES IN ALPHABETICAL ORDER
I had a great time writing All the Moments in Forever. It was the direct result of a reader’s request for a sequel for Heart of Fire Time of Ice. (Yes, I actually do pay attention to my readers.) Since part of the action happens in the Cretaceous period – around 100MYA, I decided to post the information I used (including my authoring decisions) about some of the creatures in the story.
ACROCANTHOSAURUS – THE FUZZY YELLOW DUCK
Acrocanthosaurus was a theropod dinosaur from what is now North America. It was similar to an Allosaurus in that its skull was long, narrow, and relatively flat. The Acrocanthosaurus was one of the largest theropods, measuring up to 11.5 meters from snout to tail tip and weighing up to 6.2 tons. Its skull was about 1.3 meters in length, only slightly shorter than that of the largest known Tyrannosaurus Rex, although the Acro’s total size and weight were less.
The distinctive feature of this creature was a rather high ridge along its spine caused by extensions that were more than 2.5 times the height of the vertebrae from which they extended. The creature was bipedal with a long heavy tail. Its legs suggested that it was not a particularly fast runner, despite being the apex predator of its time and location.
My description of the creature as being covered with yellow down and making a cheeping noise was prompted by my sense of the absurd and is almost certainly not accurate.
Astrodon was a genus of large herbivorous sauropod dinosaur, related to Brachiosaurus, that lived in what is now the eastern United States during the Early Cretaceous period. Paleontologists have estimated adult astrodons to have been more than 9 m (30 ft) high and 15 to 18 m (50 to 60 ft) long. The creatures most likely inhabited broad, flat plains with rivers, similar to coastal regions of southern North America. Astrodon lived in the same locations as the dromaeosaurid Deinonychus and the carnosaur Acrocanthosaurus. It was most likely a primary prey source for both predators.
During the Late Cretaceous, starting about 106 million years ago (mya) and lasting to 66 mya, the climate was warmer than it is today. The long-term trend for the period resulted in gradually cooling temperatures that restricted he tropics to equatorial regions. Northern latitudes experienced markedly more seasonal climate.
Dinosaurs reached their apex during this period and there were many species. In this story, I’ve limited the fauna to some of the more common (by the fossil record) types that would have been found in what is now North America. Both primitive birds and pterosaurs could be found in the skies during this period, although they did not seem to overlap ecologically. The birds became increasingly common and diverse, diversifying in a variety of forms.
The fauna was made more diverse by the presence of cimolodonts and multituberculates which were the two most common mammals in North America. Flowering plants began to appear during this time.
The Cretaceous ended with the K-T extinction event that occurred about 66 mya. Before that time, the fossil record shows dinosaurs. After that time, it shows mammals, birds, fish, and reptiles, but no dinosaurs.
Evidence suggests that the dromaeosaurid Deinonychus inhabited a floodplain or swamp like habitat by preference. The land was covered by tropical or sub-tropical forests, deltas and lagoons, not unlike Louisiana. Other animals Deinonychus shared its world with include various herbivorous dinosaurs and the large theropod Acrocanthosaurus.
The Deinonychus had an adult mass of 70 to 100 kilograms which places them roughly in the human spectrum of weight. They ranged to about 3.4 meters in length and stood approximately waist high to a human. Its skeleton suggests that it was an active and nimble predator, capable of outrunning a human. It most likely hunted as an ambush predator, lying in wait and dashing out when a prey animal came near. There is good evidence that the Dromaeosauridae family had feathers. Multiple fossils of Microraptor have been found with feathers and that animal is in the same family, although more primitive than Deinonychus.
Eggs from the Deinonychus species are estimated to have a diameter of 7 centimeters (2.7 inches). Skeletons of various sizes have been found together, indicating that the creature cared for its young and possibly hunted in packs. Its primary prey seems to have been the ornithopod dinosaur Tenotosaurus, although it was possibly capable of bringing down larger animals. The tenotosaurs were larger animals, ranging between 1 to 4 tons and most likely unkillable by a single Deinonychus, thus the supposition that they hunted in packs.
The most noticeable aspect of the Deinonychus was its large, sickle-shaped talon on the second toe of each hind foot. This talon has been reconstructed as being nearly five inches in length (120 mm). This fearsome talon has been hypothesized to be the creature’s main weapon.
It has been estimated that the related creature, Velociraptor, was approximately as intelligent as a rather dull chicken. In order to add interest to this story, I made an artistic decision that the Deinonychus was more intelligent than a modern African Grey Parrot. African Grey’s have been shown to be able to learn vocabularies of more than 1,000 human words and can use the words correctly and even creatively to express thoughts, including humor. If the Deinonychus was on that level of intelligence, then my Deinonychus characters become more believable. Regardless of the realism or lack thereof, I had a lot of fun writing about them.
Gastonia is an herbivorous ankylosaurian dinosaur from the Early Cretaceous of North America. Low and flat, it had heavy armor in the form of a bony shield across the lower back and large shoulder spikes. It was medium sized in terms of its relatives, with a length of about five meters and a weight of approximately two tons. It probably was more or less indifferent to attacks from all but the largest predators. Its armor and spike weaponry would have been sufficient to discourage any but the hungriest carnosaur. The tail was moderately long and lacked the tail club that similar species displayed.
HOMO HEIDELBERGENSIS – THE FOREST GIANTS
Homo heidelbergensis is an extinct species of the genus Homo that lived in Africa, Europe and Asia up until about 600,000 years ago.
The skulls of this homonin indicate that its brain was nearly as large as that of Homo sapiens. Homo heidelbergensis appears to have been the ancestor of Neanderthals, Denisovans, and modern humans (which arose around 130,000 years ago). Homo heidelbergensis appears to have migrated into Europe and Asia somewhere around 125,000 years ago. It is not known to have found its way to North America.
Males of the species averaged about 1.75 m (5 ft 9 in) tall and possibly weighed a light 62 kg (136 lb). Females averaged 1.57 m (5 ft 2 in) and 51 kg (112 lb).This is based on a reconstruction of limb bones. However, according to Lee R. Berger of the University of the Witwatersrand, significant fossil findings show that the species had some populations that averaged over 2.13 m (7 ft) tall. If these taller individuals weight was proportionate to their height, they would have been as large and possibly heavier than the largest modern humans.
My Forest Giants are the result of my speculation that a population of such creatures somehow survived the advent of modern humans by retiring into wilderness areas where humans seldom came. They could have migrated to the new world earlier than humans. If they survived, using the same reclusive strategy, they could have been present at the time this story begins. Tails of their presence along with modern humans could have been handed down verbally from generation to generation, resulting in the ongoing belief in Sasquatch/Bigfoot.
If these creatures were few in number and extremely reclusive, they could find areas of wilderness in North America where they could survive relatively unnoticed.
IGUANODONS AND HADROSAURS
Iguanodontoids are often included in the Hadrosauroieda superfamily. The Iguanodons were large herbivores that could stand upright, but probably preferred to walk in a quadrupedal mode. They have been estimated to weigh 3.5 tons and to be about 10 meters (33 feet) in length.
My usage of them in this story is problematical. The characters could have mistaken one of the various hadrosaurs for iguanodons, although the observation of a thumb spike would be a good indication that the animal was actually an iguanodont.
Microraptor was one of the smallest non-avian dinosaurs. Adult specimens can be up to 83 centimeters long (2.72 ft) and possibly weighed 1 kilogram (2.2 lb). They were also among the first non-avian dinosaurs discovered with evidence of feathers and wings. Their feathers included long flight feathers on their legs as well as on their wings and their bodies were thickly covered with long plumes on their head.
Careful analysis of their remains indicates that they displayed a black, glossy coloration similar to many modern birds. Their feathers may also have shown iridescence. Microraptors may have been nocturnal predators and the dark coloring might have helped them ambush prey. They were an ancestral species to the Deinonychosaurs although the two may have overlapped and been present at the same time.
The Sangamonian Interglacial Stage is the term used to designate the last interglacial period in North America. It ranged from 75,000 to about 125,000 years ago. It was a period of diverse mammalian species in North America, where the large animals roamed freely prior to the arrival of human populations. The climate was favorable and winters were generally mild in lower latitudes.
Tenontosaurus was a medium-to large-sized herbivorous ornithopod dinosaur. It was about 6.5 to 8 meters (21 to 26 ft) long and 3 meters (9.8 ft) high in a bipedal stance, with a mass of somewhere between 1 to 2 tons. It had an unusually long, broad tail, which was stiffened with a network of bony tendons.
Troodon were smaller dinosaurs, standing possibly waist high to a human and stretching up to eight feet in length, a good part of which was neck and tail. They may have weighed up to around 100 pounds and the largest specimens are similar to Deinonychus in size, although they probably averaged smaller. Their limbs suggest that they were quick and agile. The retractable curved claw on their foot reinforces the idea that they may have been predators. Their eyes were large enough to allow them to hunt at night and they also had some amount of depth perception. Troodon had a large brain relative to their body size. They were probably a match in intelligence to some modern birds. They seem to have matured into their full size by 3 to 5 years of age.