>Kids Know More Than Me

January 16, 2010 at 1:17 pm (Uncategorized)


Working as a park ranger (yes I will have to stop being shy about it, since my badge does say “National Park Ranger”) I get asked all kinds of questions. If I can’t answer them I usually refer the questioner to someone who can. Or, like one of the guys here says, I make up an answer. Not really. Well, maybe…

I’ve been humbled twice now by questions about dinosaurs. One adorable five-year-old sat in the back seat of his parents’ car as it pulled up to my entrance station window. Dad rolled down the window and the boy, with a book in his lap, asked me if we had any “Piscacaddyquoddymongasaurs” in the park. (Nods to Garrison Keillor). Whatever the real name was, I had never heard of it. He also wanted to know if we had a paleontologist in the park, so I sheepishly referred him to our geologist.

Couple weeks ago I was roving at Ernst Tinaja, which is a little gem of a rock pool on the rugged Old Ore Road. Roving means I’m in my park ranger uniform, being official, roving around the park. That excites some folk, who tell their kids, “Hey, there’s a park ranger!” And I answer, “Where?” and look around. Ha ha. Or they’ll say, “If I fall in this pool we have a park ranger here to help me out.” Ha and ha.

A family with young children was there and the boy, I’m guessing seven years old, asked brightly, “Are the fossils in these rocks from the Cretaceous Period? That’s when the dinosaurs roamed.”

I blinked. “Uh, maaaayybeeeeee.” I said. “Ask me about birds, why don’t you?” Geez what is it with kids and dinosaurs? Fossils are DEAD for pete’s sake. Why aren’t they studying birds? Learning their names? Buying binoculars? Reading bird books?

I told my supervisor of my humiliating lack of geologic/paleontological knowledge. He said I could use the next dinosaur question as a segue into birds. After all, when I was nine years old I knew the archaeopteryx was the “first bird,” and studied a photo of its skeleton – both reptilian yet with the first evidence of feathers. I even wanted to be an ornithologist, and looked up all the bird names in the dictionary and made a list. So maybe I can ignite a little bird craziness into some of these dino-crazed kids.

In the meantime I did brush up on some of the fossils discovered in the park, and can speak a little more knowledgeably about the Alamosaurus (like brontosaurus), the Quetzalcoatlus (huge flying reptile), and the 50-foot long crocodiles that roamed here. But don’t pull rank on the Mesozoic, Triassic, Cretaceous stuff – it all belongs in that mush pile called”prehistory” in my mushy brain, try as I might to make sense of it.

As to whether or not birds actually descended from reptiles, as we were taught, or had actually existed prior to the flying reptiles they supposedly descended from, is a matter of dispute in the science world. Here are some articles on the topic:

Discovery Raises New Doubts About Dinosaur-Bird Links http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/06/090609092055.htm

Ancient Birds Flew On All-Fours

Birds descended from T. Rex

Some scientists even refer to birds as living dinosaurs.

So kids, be warned. Ask me about dinosaurs and you’ll get a lesson on birds. Like it or not!


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