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Phoenix Zoo, Part 5

Continuing our journey through the time of the "Thunder Lizards", we encounter a Diabloceratops — a quadrupedal herbivore that lived during the Cretaceous Period some 80 million years ago. Its fossilized remains were found in the area which is now the state of Utah. It sported a large neck frill made of bone plus horns protruding from the frill and from above its eyes.

When the Diabloceratops was alive, the Western Interior Seaway was at its widest extent. The area where dinosaurs lived included lakes, floodplains, and east-flowing rivers.

This unusual dinosaur is a Citipati — which looks like something Steven Spielberg would have dreamed up for one of his Jurassic Park movies. In real life, there were about the size of an emu. Their fossils plus the remains of nests complete with eggs helped solidify the link between dinosaurs and birds. They had feathers but could not fly.

This dinosaur, on the other hand, could fly — and is one of the largest known creatures of all time to have taken to flight. It is called a Quetzalcoatlus and lived in what is now North America during the Late Cretaceous Period. The most recent studies suggest that its wingspan was up to 36 feet — that is a BIG flying animal, capable of flying at speeds as much as 80 miles per hour.

At the feet of the Quetzalcoatlus are three youngsters who looked and sounded like they were begging for food — not unlike many bird species in modern times. According to the reference material I found, they developed very rapidly and learned to fly at an early age.

This nasty-looking individual is a Utahrapter — a carnivorous theropod — whose fossils were first found near Noab, Utah. Although it was not the largest theropod of the time, it stood 5.6 feet tall, with a total length of 16 to 23 feet and weighed in at 2,200 pounds. It is thought to have hunted in packs which could bring down larger prey.

It may not have been the biggest but I certainly would not want to mess with one — would you?

Here is the long-necked Brachiosaurus, a sauropod dinosaur that lived in North America during the Late Jurassic Period. These were the dinosaurs first encountered by Dr. Alan Grant and Dr. Ellie Sattler in the Spielberg movie, Jurassic Park. A the time, I was floored by the computer-generated special effects that brought them to life. Now we just take it all for granted.

These huge creatures stood 30 feet tall, 90 feet long and weighed 30 tons. Can you image how much these creatures needed to eat in order to grow to this size and maintain it? Wow!

These are funny looking dinosaurs. Just kidding — actually these are Arabian oryx. They are a medium-sized antelope with long, straight horns. They are native to desert and steppe areas of the Arabian Peninsula.

According to Wikipedia, "The Arabian oryx was extinct in the wild by the early 1970s, but was saved in zoos and private preserves, and was reintroduced into the wild starting in 1980."

Additionally, "The Phoenix Zoo and the Fauna and Flora Preservation Society of London (now Fauna and Flora International), with financial help from the World Wildlife Fund, are credited with saving the Arabian oryx from extinction. In 1962, these groups started the first captive-breeding herd in any zoo, at the Phoenix Zoo, sometimes referred to as "Operation Oryx". Starting with 9 animals, the Phoenix Zoo has had over 240 successful births. From Phoenix, oryx were sent to other zoos and parks to start new herds."

We tend to think of the young of most species to be "so cute" but this young Tyrannosaurus rex does not strike me as "so cute". I suspect a live T. rex, even this size, could have taken down a human in seconds.

And when the adult showed up, your time would be numbered in even fewer seconds. They inhabited what is now western North America on an island continent known as Laramidia during the Cretaceous Period. Obviously, it was a carnivore — and measured some 40 feet in length, 12 feet tall and weighing 10 to 15 tons. According to Wikipedia, "By far the largest carnivore in its environment, Tyrannosaurus rex was most likely an apex predator, preying upon hadrosaurs, armored herbivores like ceratopsians and ankylosaurs, and possibly sauropods. Some experts have suggested the dinosaur was primarily a scavenger. The question of whether Tyrannosaurus was an apex predator or a pure scavenger was among the longest ongoing debates in paleontology." Maybe it was both.

To be continued with a return to the modern Phoenix Zoo.

Life is good.

B. David

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