Thursday, June 30, 2016

Megalosaurus: The Door to New Worlds

The first dinosaur ever to be named was Megalosaurus. The first fossil to be “officially” discovered (England, 1676), Megalosaurus was believed to be a giant human. As the first dinosaur to be drawn, her thigh fossil was depicted as a piece of male anatomy by Robert Plot. This prompted Dr. Richard Brookes to name it “scrotum humanum” in 1763.

Meanwhile, Reverend William Buckland had different ideas about Megalosaurus. An avid fossil collector, Rev. Buckland realized that the bones he possessed were instead from an ancient animal. After reviewing Buckland’s collection, Baron George Cuvier said that the fossils were of a giant lizard creature. (Cuvier was the first scientist to realize that extinction occurs.) In 1824, Rev. Buckland wrote a scientific paper and named this “lizard,” Megalosaurus, which means “great lizard.”

In his paper, Rev. Buckland described Megalosaurus as a giant land-living reptile who lived in the ancient past. According to him, She was a fifty foot (about 16 meters) long lizard, who walked on all fours. After examining her teeth, Rev. Buckland said that She was a meat eater. His reasoning was that Megalosaurus had sharp teeth like a monitor lizard.

Then in 1842, British scientist Richard Owen was pondering just what were Megalosaurus, Iguanodon, and Hylaeosaurus (an ankylosaur). These were all recent discoveries of extinct animals. Owen noted that their fossils were different from any other reptile living or from the past. Their legs were directly underneath their bodies, unlike modern lizards. Also they had extra bones in their hips. Owen grouped these three animals into their own family – Dinosauria (deinous means “terrible,” and sauros means “lizard”).

Later Owen decided to present Megalosaurus and her friends to the public. He had “life-sized” sculptures placed at the Crystal Palace Exhibition of 1851, which being held in London. Megalosaurus was depicted as a lizard walking on four legs, with a crocodile-shaped head and a hump on her back. After seeing this sculpture, Charles Dickens described Her in his novel “Bleak House.” (This was the first mention of a dinosaur in literature.)

Despite being the first named dinosaur, Megalosaurus is still relatively unknown. Rev. Buckland’s collection had contained fossils of different families of dinosaurs. Scientists first had to sift through his collection to determine which fossils belonged to what dinosaur. As more complete skeletons were found for other dinosaurs, scientists could begin to identify the bones of Megalosaurus.

Who was Megalosaurus? She looked nothing like Owen’s sculpture. Related to the ferocious Spinosaurus, Megalosaurus walked on two legs and hunted large sauropods. Her thick muscular legs allowed Megalosaurus to run fast for short distances. In this way, She could ambush and charge her prey. Also, She had large powerful jaws and long sharp teeth. Using them, Megalosaurus ripped off chunks of meat for her meal.

Megalosaurus opens the door to mystery, inviting people to walk through. Once people discovered her bones, they entered an ancient world, they never knew existed. She prompted them to consider new and strange animals. Through Megalosaurus, the world of dinosaurs came to life. Follow Her in and leave your old ideas behind.

Saturday, June 25, 2016

Discovering Your Animals of the Heart

My new blog at Witches and Pagans is up.

Animals of the Heart are the animals who want to share their lives with you. Offering their friendship, these animals want to be a part of you. I prefer calling animals who bond with you as “Animals of the Heart.” For me, the terms of “totem,” “power,” and “familiar” are specific to their religious traditions. I know that people use these words interchangeably to mean the same thing. “Animals of the Heart” is a general term that I use to denote the type of animal that people feel a deep connection with.

Animals of the Heart come in all forms. Some of them have been with you since childhood. I have met people who have been happy with Goldfish as their Animal of the Heart because they had them as pets. Meanwhile, other people have been fascinated by unicorns or dragons as children. As adults, they look to these mythical animals for wisdom.

Other Animals of the Heart represent your inner character or personal characteristics. For example, my family calls me, “Squirrel.” According to them, I am always “bright-eyed and bushy tailed.” They also find me to be a bit squirrelly.

Read more at Animal Wisdom: Animals of The Heart.

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Friday, June 10, 2016

Gorilla: Calmness and Strength

Lowland Gorilla
When people were first introduced to Gorillas, they believed that these primates were fiercesome monsters. King Kong symbolized people’s fear of this mammal. Since Gorillas live in the most inaccessible regions of the forests and mountains of Africa, They were the last members of the Great Ape Family to be found. Therefore, ordinary people had no ideas about what real Gorillas were like.

The largest and most powerful of all living Primates, Gorilla is actually peaceful and sociable. His easy-going nature has made it possible for several groups of Gorillas to coexist peacefully in the same region. When a strange Gorilla appears, the eldest Gorilla (Silverback) hoots excitedly, building up to an ear splitting roar. Silverback Gorilla will charge but stops short of touching the intruder. This will usually frighten the other Gorilla away.

Within His Troop, Gorilla forms a strong attachment with everyone. The strongest and most mature male – the Silverback – rules the Troop. He decides where they will eat and sleep. He is responsible for their safety and closely guards them. If Silverback Gorilla sees the Troop in any kind of danger, He will fight to protect them.

A plant eater, Gorilla especially likes bamboo shoots. Contrary to the movies, He is not a carnivore. After a day of foraging for plants on the ground, Gorilla spends the night in a tree. Nest making is simple; He rips off several branches and places them in tree nooks for a bed. Gorilla’s typical day consists of eating in the morning and evening, traveling during the day, napping in the afternoon, traveling, and then making his nest for the night.

Being very calm, Gorilla is not easily bothered. In fact, social grooming can relax Him into going into a trance. Gorilla shows interest by doing a task for its own reward. Most intelligent of the (nonhuman) Great Apes, He knows and uses language, when taught. Zoologists think that Gorilla has self-awareness like a human does.

Gorilla teaches calmness and strength. Remaining serene, He goes about his affairs. Even when a strange Gorilla shows up, He will not immediately attack. Taking control of the situation, Gorilla will state his position firmly but forcefully. As a last resort, He will attack. Learn from Gorilla how to act calmly and effectively. And keep your aggressive impulses in check.

1. Gorillas are endangered throughout most of their range.

2. The Ape Family is really comprised of two families, the Great Apes (Hominidae) and the Lesser Apes (Hylobatidae). Lesser Apes are the gibbons. Among the Great Apes are gorillas, chimpanzees, orangutans, and humans.

3. Zoologists divide gorillas into two groups – lowland gorilla (Gorilla gorilla) and mountain gorilla (Gorilla beringei). Lowland gorillas live in the dense forests of Africa. Meanwhile mountain gorillas live in the mountains of Central Africa. The difference between the two is that lowland gorillas have short hair and weigh less.