Sunday, September 29, 2013

SHUNOSAURUS: Unexpected Delights

(Drawing by Arthur Weasley)

Discovered in Sichuan Province in 1979, Shunosaurus of the Jurassic was one of the Primitive Sauropods. Chinese students had been practicing their excavation techniques how to dig out fossils when they found Him in a road side. Afterwards, scientists discovered several more complete skeletons of Shunosaurus. Since this Dinosaur lived in the Middle Jurassic (170 million years ago), paleontologists regarded this to be fortuitous. Not much was known about Sauropods during this time. Shunosaurus became one of the best- studied of the Sauropods since He filled in many of the gaps that scientists wondered about.
            Living in China with many long-necked Primitive Sauropods, Shunosaurus had to browse on the lower branches of trees, with his short but flexible neck. Since He was not one of the larger Sauropods, Shunosaurus had two things to help Him. Possessing more teeth than any other Sauropod, He had twenty-five teeth on each half of his lower jaw. This enabled Shunosaurus to munch on the tougher leaves rejected by other Sauropods. The other thing was his clubbed tail. Instead of a whip-like tail, Shunosaurus had a thick club studded with small spikes.
            Shunosaurus was an accidental discovery for paleontologists. Unexpectedly found by students, He filled-in their gaps of knowledge about the Middle Jurassic. Years after that discovery, his club tail was found. By studying Him, paleontologists theorize that other Sauropods had clubbed tails until They evolved into larger sizes.
            Shunosaurus teaches us that the world is full of unexpected surprises. We should be delighted when we encounter something completely different. Our curiosity leads us to exciting new experiences and new explorations. When we are bored, we can imagine a small Dinosaur with a clubbed tail who walloped predators willy-nilly. That alone should bring delight into our lives.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Mythic Animals: Reptile: Kappa of Japan

In Japan, signs can be found posted at various ponds to inform people to “Beware of the Kappa.” These turtle-like amphibians often lurk at the bottom of rivers and lakes waiting for an unwary person. Since their favorite food is the entrails of children, a Kappa would reach up inside the child’s body and pull the organs out. Besides killing people, Kappas would pass gas, look up women’s kimonos, and rape women. People had to be on guard for a sneak attack by a Kappa.


Besides entrails, Kappas also feast on cucumbers. A prepared person can prevent an attack by offering cucumbers to the beast. Another way to stave off an attack is to be very polite to the Kappa. Because Kappas prize decorum and politeness, the beast would bow when the person bowed. (In order to walk on land, a Kappa has a bowl of water on its head.) When the beast bowed, the life-giving water would flow out.


Once the Kappa is incapacitated, a person could have the beast sign a legal contract. In return for water, a Kappa would agree to help the family, such as doing farm work, setting broken bones, or teaching medicine. Because the Japanese considered Kappas to be trustworthy, they used legal documents to keep the beasts in line whenever possible. Although Kappas are dangerous, the Japanese exploited their weaknesses to their benefit.


Works Used:

Chamberlain, Basil, “Japanese Things,” Charles Tuttle, Tokyo 1905 (reprint 1971).

Schumacher, Mark, “KAPPA = River Imp, Water Sprite,” Japanese Buddhist Corner,, 2010,, .

Zell-Ravenheart, Oberon and Ash DeKirk, “A Wizard’s Bestiary,” New Page Press, Franklin Lakes, NJ, 2007.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Dinos: Sauropod Family: Stateliness

Often featured as children’s toys or logos for oil companies, the Members of the Sauropod Family are iconic Dinosaurs. These quintessential Dinosaurs had long bodies, long necks, and long tails. When giant leg bones of various Sauropods were first found, people could not imagine anything so huge that lived on land. These days, people take the enormous size of these plant-eaters for granted.
            In the 1840s, people originally thought that Sauropod bones were those of Whales. Since these bones were hollow, people then thought they could be those of Pterosaurs (Flying Reptiles). Then in the 1870s, complete skeletons of various Sauropods were discovered in the United States. Diplodocus and Apatosaurus astonished people with their great size. In the following years, larger and larger Sauropods were found. Argentinosaurus of Argentina is now the largest of the known Dinosaurs (117 feet (35 meters) long).
            The Members of the Sauropod Family can be roughly divided into three groups. Appearing in the Late Triassic (205 million years ago), Primitive Sauropods established the basic body plan for the entire Family. One difference between these early Sauropods and the later Members of the Family is their super-long neck. A Primitive Sauropod, Mamenchisaurus of China had one of the longest necks of any animal. (His neck was about 82 feet (25 meters) long.)
            The later Members are split into the Whip-tailed (Diplodocoids) Sauropods and Big-nosed (Macronaria) Sauropods. Diplodocus, with her agile whip-tail, gave the name for her group. Meanwhile the Big-nosed Sauropods possessed a large nose-opening on their foreheads. However, their nostrils were further down on their faces. Brachiosaurus, the tallest of all the Dinosaurs, was a member of this group. Meanwhile, Argentinosaurus was the largest of the Titanosaurs, who were the biggest of the Macronarians.
            Sauropods demonstrate stateliness and grace. Despite their immense size, They roamed serenely across the land. Moving majestically, these excellent walkers left their foot prints everywhere. With their flexible whiptails, Diplodocoids snapped at hungry predators, without breaking their stride. Unafraid of anyone, Sauropods lived their lives undisturbed. The stately bearing of the Sauropods is something that we can emulate in our lives.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Mythic Animals: Horses: Karkadan of Persia

Many modern depictions of Unicorns are of peaceful, shy, gentle horse creatures. For that reason, I think of them as steeds for fairy princesses. This refined image of the Unicorn is something that I do not relate to. However, learning about the Karkadan, the Unicorn of Ethiopia, India, and Persia, changed my point of view about Unicorns in general. Unlike the seemingly passive European Unicorn, the Karkadan protects its territory. Well-known for its fierceness, the Karkadan preys on elephants and lions. Moreover, this solidly built beast shakes the ground as it runs. It tickles me that only the ringdove is unafraid of the Karkadan. Sitting on the Karkadan’s back, this bird sings to it. In return, the beast protects the ringdoves from harm. I think of this as gratitude for beauty and grace that the ringdove brings to the Karkadan.

Wikipedia” reports that that the Iraqis have a tradition called the “tears of the Karkadann.” According to this myth, the Karkadan wanders in the desert looking for water. When “he” does find it, “he weeps out of fatigue and thirst-pain.” “His” tears, as they fall into the water, become beads, which are then used for prayer beads. After learning about this tradition of the Karkadan, I have come to regard this beast as ancient, fierce, and wise.
What Karkadan looked like

Works Used:

Allan, Tony, “The Mythic Bestiary,” Duncan Baird: London, 2008.

---, “Karkadann,”, Wikipedia, 13 May, 2013,

Nigg, Joseph, “The Book of Dragons and Other Mythical Beasts,” Quarto: London, 2002.

Zell-Ravenheart, Oberon and Ash DeKirk, “A Wizard’s Bestiary,” New Page Press: Franklin Lakes, NJ, 2007.