Hello Friends and Family,

Link to this year's index by clicking here.

Phoenix Zoo, Part 4

Today, you'll see the real reason that I came to the zoo at this time. They had a special exhibit of animatronic dinosaurs on display. The creature in this photo is not one of them but welcomed us to the area where they were on exhibit. In fact, I think I've seen this Velociraptor before — but it was at night at ZooLights! At the time, he was lit up with thousands of lights — which, sadly don't look as impressive in bright sunlight.

The first dinosaur on exhibit was a Pachyrhinosaurus although it was not animated so that the kids in attendance could climb all over it. This was the only dinosaur on exhibit that visitors were allowed to touch.

The largest animals of this species were 26 feet long and weighed some 4.4 tons. They were herbivores and ate tough, fibrous plants.

From here on, all the dinosaurs were approximately life-size, moving and roaring at the visitors. This photo shows a Stegosaurus, famous for its vertical plates on its back and the spikes on its tail.

It was a herbivore and grew to a length of 29.5 feet and weighed in at up to 7.7 tons — although this individual appears to be from a smaller individual or species of Stegosaurus. It possessed a small brain (relative to its size) — approximately the size of a dog's brain.

I don't like the way he is looking at me — like I might be his next meal. His name, Carnotaurus, means "meat-eating bull" due to the fact that the species is carnivorous and the appearance of bull-like horns on its head.

The animal was very muscular and a fast runner. The largest individuals were some 30 feet in length and weighed about 1.5 tons. Curiously, it had tiny forelimbs — but, I'd guess with that powerful jaw and its speed, the forelimbs were not really needed.

This photo of the Carnotaurus from behind makes it look like it is running away — as if frightened by something. It certainly wasn't me — no way I could scare this monster.

Ah, perhaps this is the animal that scared that Carnotaurus away — as the proverbial mouse that scared the elephant, this tiny ground squirrel did the trick on the dinosaur.

We all know that the dinosaurs became extinct at the end of the Cretaceous period but some species of mammals survived — somewhat similar to this humble little ground squirrel.

Oh, and don't forget that one line of dinosaurs did survive that mass extinction but today we call them "birds".

This nasty-looking tank of a dinosaur is called Edmontonia. The large spikes are thought to have been used for tests of strength against other males for mating rights. They probably also offered a measure of protection against predator dinosaurs.

These animals were 20 feet long and weighed three tons. They were plant-eaters. According to ThoughtCo.com, "Some paleontologists also believe Edmontonia was capable of producing honking sounds, which would truly have made it the SUV of nodosaurs."

This pack of animals are called Coelophysis. As you can see they are relatively small (up to 10 feet from the nose to the tip of the tail) weighing in at about 60 pounds. They inhabited what is now the southwest United States as well as southern Africa.

Coelophysis was a fast runner with stereoscopic vision and, as a result, excellent depth perception. It was a carnivore with teeth typical of predatory dinosaurs, blade-like, recurved, sharp and jagged with fine serrations. It hunted small, lizard-like animals and some paleontologists suggest that they have hunted in packs to bring down larger prey.

Surprise — a herd of Desert Bighorn Sheep. My first thought was that these were live prey for the carnivore dinosaurs but then I came back to reality — these are live, the dinosaurs are animatronic.

They are right at home here since they are native to the deserts of the USA's inter-mountain west and southwestern regions, as well as northwestern Mexico. They have adapted to desert ecosystems and can go long periods without water.

They are herbivores which primarily eat grasses but when grass is scarce, they will also eat flowering plants and cactus.

This nasty looking brute is a Dilophosaurus — the first fossils of which were found and collected in northern Arizona in the early 1940s. In real life, they were some 23 feet long and weighed about 880 pounds. They were carnivores with long curved teeth with serrations on the front and back. They seem to have preyed on larger animals but also may have been a fish eater. It was a fast runner which could reach speeds of 20 miles an hour or more.

Dilophosaurus was featured in the novel Jurassic Park and its movie adaptation, wherein it was given the fictional abilities to spit venom and expand a cowl on its neck, as well as being smaller than the real animal.


To be continued...

Life is good.

B. David

P. S., All photos and text © B. David Cathell Photography, Inc. — www.bdavidcathell.com