Do you think you would like to live in the time of the early dinosaurs? If you do then follow me back in time, over 225 million years ago, to Arizona in the Late Triassic Period. Click on words that are underlined to see how to pronounce them. Hi, my name is Gertie and I will be your guide. Just in case you are curious my name isn't really Gertie, that's a nickname given to me by a paleontologist . Scientifically I'm called Chindesaurus and I'm a small dinosaur who was found in Petrified Forest National Park.
If you are going to live in the Late Triassic you should get to know some of your neighbors.
This lumbering reptile is a Placerias . He's big, weighing close to two tons. Those tusks look scary but they are used for digging up roots and tubers.
Does he look like an overgrown armadillo to you? There were no armadillos in the Late Triassic but the Desmatosuchus was heavily armored to protect himself from carnivores .
Both the Desmatosuchus and the Placerias are plant eaters or herbivores. Do you like to eat plants? If you are going to live here you will have to eat something maybe you could eat the same plants these reptiles are eating? A Modern Cycad There are many kinds of ferns, horsetails, and cycads growing here. Have you ever seen any of these plants in a grocery store? Even though relatives of these plants exist in the modern world you humans seem to prefer to eat different plants.
There are no flowering plants in the Triassic so the fruits and vegetables you normally eat don't exist. There are no apples, oranges, or broccoli and even grasses are absent in the Triassic. All these plants will appear millions of years in the future. I'm sorry we can't find plants you like to eat. Horsetails You have probably figured out by now that the climate in the Late Triassic is much different from your time. Because the continents move very slowly, 225 million years ago North America was closer to the equator. Triassic Arizona is tropical with many rivers. This means you will have plenty of water to drink and since humans are omnivores (eating both plants and meat) maybe there is something for you to eat that lives in the water. Let's check out a nearby stream. Do you like to eat fish? I'm sure these sharks would taste great with lemon. Oops! Sorry, no lemons.
I see something crawling on the bottom below the sharks. There, do you see them? These are freshwater horseshoe crabs.
I understand that crabmeat is very popular with humans. Though relatives of these creatures are still around in your world I don't think they are served in restaurants. That's because they aren't crabs but are more closely related to spiders and scorpions. If we turn one over it doesn't look like there's much meat available. Even cooking this one in butter and garlic wouldn't improve it. Of course, you guessed it, no garlic and certainly no butter in the Late Triassic.
Now that we are close to the water I must warn you about something else that lives here. You can see her across the river lying on the bank.
Be very quiet because we don't want this reptile to know we are here.
She's called a phytosaur and is almost 30 feet long. She looks and acts similar to an alligator, but phytosaurs died out long before the first alligators appeared.
Just like the alligators, phytosaurs are carnivores too. They look like a peaceful family group but the big one would eat us quickly. I understand that humans do eat alligators but none of us would try to eat a full-grown, healthy phytosaur.
Here's a treat. See those handsome creature s dashing up the riverbank? They are my relatives, dinosau rs known as Coelophysis .
Both my kind (Chindesaurus) and the Coelophysis are small dinosaurs. We survive by being fast and agile.
Check out the teeth on this Coelophysis. What kind of food do you think they would have eaten? (Click on the one you think)
I have sharp pointed teeth and that means I'm also a carnivore. Perhaps if you lived here you should try eating lots of different plants and animals then you will find out what tastes best.
I've just had a scary thought. Would you eat a dinosaur?
I think, since the world of the Late Triassic is so very different from yours maybe you would be more comfortable in your own time. Please take this advice from Gertie, your friendly dinosaur guide. The Triassic is an interesting place to visit but there's no place like home.
Please check out these links to learn more about the Triassic Period.
Do a search for Triassic