A recent discovery by palaeontologists working at a site in Patagonia has significantly increased our knowledge of prehistoric life. Very occasionally, when conditions are right, fossils can reveal the imprints of soft tissues as well as bone. Such was the case with an almost intact specimen of a Brontosaurus found earlier this year, and its discoverers were considerably surprised to find that the animal had quite sizeable ears.
Professor Ernest Cartlidge is particularly excited by the discovery and he painted us a vivid picture of life in the prehistoric age.
"Look at this little guy," he said, pointing to an artist's impression of the dinosaur in question. "He looks a happy little feller, doesn't he? Just goin' about his day, a-munchin and a-crunchin with not a care in the world. Well, this guy, he's what scientists call a 'herbivore'. He doesn't eat meat, old Bronty. No siree! He survives by foraging for nuts and berries.
"Now wait just one God darn a minute, I hear you say. How can a big old critter like that get by on nuts and berries? Why, that's just a load of old hokum, for sure. Well actually, back in prehistoric times, long before you and I were around - long before even your mom and pop were around - everything was way, way bigger. Jurassic nuts were the size of small car - plenty big enough for a hungry dinosaur! Oh yeah!
"But not all dinosaurs were herbivores. Oh no. Some of 'em used to luuurve gobblin' up other dinosaurs and we call these 'carnivores'. Just take a little a looky at this guy. That's Tee-Ranosaurus Rex. He sure looks an ornery feller, don't he? Old Tee-Rexy, well he just can't get enough of that tender loin of Stegosaurus, or a couple of Brachiosaur burgers or even a bucket of crispy coated pterosaur wings. Mmm, yummy - that's some mighty fine eatin'!
"But, uh oh, wait a minute now. Tee-Rexy's got a problem. Just look at those ginormous feet! Well, he sure looks funny. An' it's bad news for Rexy, 'cos it means that Bronty can hear that big old lumbering bruiser coming from miles away, thanks to those great big ears of his. There's no way that he's going to become a dino-dinner!"
Professor Cartlidge went on to explain why he believes that many other species of dinosaur also had ears, and theorised that this is the main reason they remained dominant for so long.
"Yes sir, a good pair of ears is about the most useful thing that you could possibly have in the animal kingdom. Old Ralphy Rat knows it, when he's a-scurrying and a-scampering about after scraps. Old Mortimer Mole knows it when he's a-ferreting and a-fidgeting about for worms under the soil. So why not the dinosaurs? And do you know what? The really super-great thing about ears is that they're useful for more than just listening to things. Oh boy! See, it used to get mighty hot back in the old days, what with all the volcanos and the acid rain an' all. So you're gonna need a decent hat and it's only your ears that are gonna to stop it slipping down over your eyes.
"And speaking of eyes, there ain't nothin' worse than a short-sighted dinosaur, a-bumblin' and a-stumblin' around, bumping into trees and rocks and causing all them there earthquakes. But if you got a pair of ears, well now, then you got yourself something to hook your spectacles round.
"But the absolute greatest, most useful and toppermost awesome thing that ever did happen to those ears was that they evolved. See, over time, old Bronty and his chums, they got smaller and smaller and all covered over with feathers until they turned into the birds of today, like chickens and thrushes and parrots and things. And as they did, so those big ol' floppy ears turned into flappy wings. And that's why the birds you see a-peckin' and a-bobbin' about your garden don't have no ears of their own, and why you'll never see a sparrow wearin' glasses."
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