The Auk, the Dodo, and the Oryx: Vanished and Vanishing Creatures

The Auk, the Dodo, and the Oryx: Vanished and Vanishing Creatures

The Auk, the Dodo, and the Oryx: Vanished and Vanishing Creatures

The Auk, the Dodo, and the Oryx: Vanished and Vanishing Creatures

Excerpt

The whitened bones of strange creatures line the galleries of our museums. Here, all fangs and claws, is the nightmarish figure of a great dinosaur. There stands the eerie skeleton of an ancient amphibian who carried on his back a huge bony sail. Along this wall are mounted the remains of a mighty serpent of the sea.

These are the vanished ones, the extinct ones. They seem to us like creatures from another world. Indeed, that is what they are—creatures from a world mankind never knew, a world unthinkably remote in time. When these ancient beasts lived, the human race was still unborn. Fifty million years or more have passed since the monstrous dinosaurs stalked the earth. No man ever glimpsed them when they lived.

We know these animals of an earlier day only by the relics they have left us. Bones preserved in mud, the imprint of a scaly hide against the sand of a prehistoric beach, an outline cast in volcanic ash—these are the clues that tell us of the life of the past. The evidence of fossil bones helps us to know what sort of inhabitants . . .

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