The era of exclusive marine life has ended. Land elevation, cooling crust and cooling oceans, sea restriction and consequent deepening, together with a great increase of land in northern latitudes, all conspired greatly to change the world’s climate in all regions far removed from the equatorial zone.
The closing epochs of the preceding era were indeed the age of frogs, but these ancestors of the land vertebrates were no longer dominant, having survived in greatly reduced numbers. Very few types outlived the rigorous trials of the preceding period of biologic tribulation. Even the spore-bearing plants were nearly extinct.
The early land-life periods of the world’s history began. Life, in general, did not fare well but did better than at the strenuous and hostile close of the marine-life era.
Suddenly and with only the hint of the two prereptilian ancestors that developed in Africa during the preceding epoch, the reptiles appeared in full-fledged form. They developed rapidly, soon yielding crocodiles, scaled reptiles, and eventually both sea serpents and flying reptiles. Their transition ancestors speedily disappeared.
These rapidly evolving reptilian dinosaurs soon became the monarchs of this age. They were egg layers and are distinguished from all animals by their small brains, having brains weighing less than one pound to control bodies later weighing as much as forty tons. But earlier reptiles were smaller, carnivorous, and walked kangaroolike on their hind legs. They had hollow avian bones and subsequently developed only three toes on their hind feet, and many of their fossil footprints have been mistaken for those of giant birds. Later on, the herbivorous dinosaurs evolved. They walked on all fours, and one branch of this group developed a protective armor.
The marine life of this period was meager but improved rapidly with the new invasion of the sea, which again produced extensive coast lines of shallow waters..
The life changes of this period were indeed revolutionary and they were transitional and gradual.
This period extended over twenty-five million years and is known as the Triassic.
In the new age a new phase of the reptilian age began. The great event of this period was the evolution and decline of the dinosaurs. Land-animal life reached its greatest development, in point of size, and had virtually perished from the face of the earth by the end of this age. The dinosaurs evolved in all sizes from a species less than two feet long up to the huge noncarnivorous dinosaurs, seventy-five feet long, that have never since been equaled in bulk by any living creature.
These massive creatures became less active and strong as they grew larger and larger; but they required such an enormous amount of food and the land was so overrun by them that they literally starved to death and became extinct–they lacked the intelligence to cope with the situation.
This was a fresh-water age characterized by many inland lakes,
the flora of this age was much like that of the preceding. Ferns persisted, while conifers and pines became more and more like the present-day varieties. Some coal was still being formed along the northern Mediterranean shores.
The return of the seas improved the weather. Corals spread to European waters, but they never again appeared in the slowly cooling polar seas. The marine life of these times improved and developed greatly, especially. Both corals and crinoids temporarily appeared in larger numbers than heretofore, but the ammonites dominated the invertebrate life of the oceans, their average size ranging from three to four inches, though one species attained a diameter of eight feet. Sponges were everywhere, and both cuttlefish and oysters continued to evolve.
As ages passes, the potentials of marine life were continuing to unfold. The sea urchin was one of the outstanding mutations of this epoch. Crabs, lobsters, and the modern types of crustaceans matured. Marked changes occurred in the fish family, a sturgeon type first appearing, but the ferocious sea serpents, descended from the land reptiles, still infested all the seas, and they threatened the destruction of the entire fish family.
This continued to be, pre-eminently, the age of the dinosaurs. They so overran the land that two species had taken to the water for sustenance during the preceding period of sea encroachment. These sea serpents represent a backward step in evolution. While some new species are progressing, certain strains remain stationary and others gravitate backward, reverting to a former state. And this is what happened when these two types of reptiles forsook the land.
As time passed, the sea serpents grew to such size that they became very sluggish and eventually perished because they did not have brains large enough to afford protection for their immense bodies. Their brains weighed less than two ounces notwithstanding the fact that these huge ichthyosaurs sometimes grew to be fifty feet long, the majority being over thirty-five feet in length. The marine crocodilians were also a reversion from the land type of reptile, but unlike the sea serpents, these animals always returned to the land to lay their eggs.
Soon after two species of dinosaurs migrated to the water in a futile attempt at self-preservation, two other types were driven to the air by the bitter competition of life on land. But these flying pterosaurs were not the ancestors of the true birds of subsequent ages. They evolved from the hollow-boned leaping dinosaurs, and their wings were of batlike formation with a spread of twenty to twenty-five feet. These ancient flying reptiles grew to be ten feet long, and they had separable jaws much like those of modern snakes. For a time these flying reptiles appeared to be a success, but they failed to evolve along lines which would enable them to survive as air navigators. They represent the nonsurviving strains of bird ancestry.
Turtles increased during this period, first appearing in North America. Their ancestors came over from Asia by way of the northern land bridge.
Now one hundred million years ago the reptilian age was drawing to a close. The dinosaurs, for all their enormous mass, were all but brainless animals, lacking the intelligence to provide sufficient food to nourish such enormous bodies. And so did these sluggish land reptiles perish in ever-increasing numbers. Henceforth, evolution will follow the growth of brains, not physical bulk, and the development of brains will characterize each succeeding epoch of animal evolution and planetary progress.
This period, embracing the height and the beginning decline of the reptiles, extended nearly twenty-five million years and is known as the Jurassic.
The Dinosaurs – TRENCH TOWN PRESS
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