Just a Single Chapter
Dinosaurs are often proclaimed as the ultimate in prehistoric antiquity. Many people know that the world is old, and dinosaurs inhabited it before people. Few are encouraged to really consider the lifespan of the planet and the many creatures that have rose to prominence and then fell to extinction both before and after the reign of the dinosaurs.
The earliest dinosaur fossils are in excess of 200 million years old, making the long-standing Egyptian pyramids seem ridiculously recent. In contrast, the earliest known fossil remains of life may be 4 billion years old. If those reports are accurate, then life arose shortly after the planet was formed and has persisted ever since.
The first amphibians crawled out of the oceans 350 million years ago. They found that the land was already colonized by plants and insects. But more than 100 million years would pass before the first classic dinosaurs would start to appear. In fact, the famous Jurassic superstars–Brontosaurus, Allosaurus, Stegosaurus, and their kin–did not appear until 150 million years ago.
This is not to downplay the dinosaur dynasty in any way. No terrestrial group has ever been more successful–especially when you consider the continued flourishing of the avian dinosaurs today. And yet, after the Cretaceous extinction event, 66 million years passed with great families of mammals waxing and waning.
So it is worth considering that dinosaurs, for all their majesty, are just one chapter in the long, fascinating history of life on Earth. We, too, are a part of Earth’s biological story. How long will our chapter be?