Most children know that any good natural history or science museum could have classic examples of dinosaur fossils on display. Maybe it is because of great dinosaur movies or because when you walk into the front hall of one of the big museums, you come face to face with a replica of a massive dinosaur that is larger than a house and who could easily eat you if he was alive today. Those monster dinosaurs are exciting and the thrill of going from the replicas that are made to look like scientists guess they would to seeing actual bones or other remnants of the dinosaur age that was millions of years ago makes a trip to the museum one of the most eye opening experiences you can have in learning about geology and fossils.
It is fun to take your family to the sealed displays showing ancient fossils and read the descriptions of where the fossils were found and how paleontologists can project what an animal looked like just from their fossilized remains. But don’t just glimpse the huge teeth of a tyrannosaurus Rex or the massive leg bone of the Brontosaurus and leave the museums. There is a lot more to see.
The different eras of the primitive age from the Jurassic to the Paleozoic Era to the Cambrium period were all times of rich development of life. These were centuries where the earth was wild and forests and wild environments were perfect ecosystems for the spawning of some amazing life forms. Along with the stunning examples of huge dinosaurs, fossil discoveries have been made of smaller creatures that resemble our current animal kingdom. In the same natural history museum, you will be able to see fossils of fish, small birds, a dinosaur era ancestor of horses and dogs and even ancient insects.
But since this was a period of time that was so rich with life giving essentials, almost everything grew bigger than we are used to. The ancient version of the shark, the megalodon lived and hunted like great white sharks of our times. But they grew to huge sizes. Some examples of fossils of these sea beasts reflect that some may have reached weights of over 30 tons.
You can even witness how insects that are ancestors of our present day bugs were much larger and in many ways different from what they have evolved into in modern times. It is really amazing to see the fossil of an ancient dragonfly on display at the museum. Part of that amazement is that something so small compared to the huge dinosaurs that dominate the time also were captured in fossilized form for us to study and enjoy. But what really jumps out is that the dragonfly grandparents of the small flying bug you see at your local lake was much larger and more impressive than their modern day counterparts.
When you see a fossil of a dragonfly showing wingspans that may be larger than your hand, it is fun to imagine a world where event he bugs were massive dinosaurs. The ancient cavemen must have been awed by the size of every creature they came across. But it makes you glad that evolution has done its job to make our modern dragonflies the size they are when they land on your fishing pole this weekend.