The Mesozoic Era is a time period in the Earth's history, best known for being the time when all the dinosaurs were around. It is divided up into three shorter periods, known as the Triassic, the Jurassic and the Cretaceous. The Mesozoic period is also known for its extreme volcanic activity, as represented in many modern dinosaur paintings.
Triassic: The Dinosaurs Arise
Dinosaurs evolved from thecodonts and orthodonts in the early Triassic. Or, if you don't believe in evolution, then you can say the dinosaurs were created by God right around 6000 years ago...in which case "Triassic" means nothing to you.
The forbears of dinosaurs -- the aforementioned thecodonts and orthodonts -- resembled giant salamanders, newts, quadrapedal frogs, or David Letterman when he is taking a shower. However as these beasts spread inland they found their skin dried and cracked, their gelatinous eggs rotted, and their teeth needed straightening.
Some of the first dinosaurs included plateosaurus, sauerkrautosaurus, Joan Rivers, anchisaurus, and brontosaurus. Non-dinosaur animals during the Triassic included turtles, crocodiles, wookies, fish, insects, and even primitive mammaries like Pamela Anderson. Plant life was relatively boring during this time; the great dance club mosses had all died out when disco crashed in the Permian extinction, so for a while all the herbivores had to eat was horsetails and coniferous trees like pines, Gordon's gin, and monkeypuzzles. Horsetails, however, would not actually be available until horses evolved; and pine trees have almost no nutritional value and taste like turpentine.
Most dinosaurs drenched their pine trees meals in chocolate syrup to kill that nasty flavor.
However, during the late Triassic daffodil, rhubarb, and mallow trees evolved, allowing herbivores a better menu. These tasty and nutritious meals allowed the dinosaurs to grow into the giants of the Jurassic.
Jurassic: Kingdom of Sauropods
There was relatively little diversity during the Jurassic. Reptiles refused to associate with amphibians; dinosaurs forced reptiles to sit at the back of the forest and drink from segregated waterholes. Still, many interesting new life forms arose during the Jurassic:
- apatosaurus, a huge long-necked brute which wandered about stepping on smaller dinosaurs;
- NOT brontosaurus, which by this time had been found to be an elaborate hoax;
- archaeopteryx, a bird-like fish with hair-like feathers, lizard-like teeth, and a Warren-Buffet-like stock portfolio;
- allosaurus, a bipedal carnivore which extorted its pound of flesh from virtually everybody;
- megalosaurus, the egomaniac of the age;
- dipsodocus, a quadriped like apatosaurus but which ate fermented fruit and which often got drunk and fell into tarpits;
- stenographosaurus, a valuable member of society in the pre-typwriter, pre-computer age;
- crappodon, a coprophagic quadriped which survived by eating the droppings of other sauropods;
- pterosaurs, most of which chewed tobacco or early tobacco-like plants and whose fossilized spit forms the rock known as jasper;
- and icthyosaurs, which resembled Flipper or other television stars such as Telly Savalas.
The hadrosaurs, or duck-billed dinosaurs, had a rather confusing time because they kept receiving bills in the mail from ducks that hadn't even evolved yet. A few of the bills came from a platypus named Vanessa Swinehog, but these were leather rather than hard like a proper duck's bill.
Because of a global geoherpes infection, volcanoes were more active during the Jurassic than they were during the Triassic, although not quite as active as they were later during the Cretaceous.
Despite the large numbers of sauropods leaving their droppings all over the place, the Jurassic did not see a large increase in plant growth. Indeed, there were quite a few more artistically arranged deserts and mesas than there were during the Triassic. It is suspected that this was due to the large quantities of volcanic ash, which tended to cover the poo before plants could take root in it, as well as blocking out the Sun, which reduced the plants' growth rate. Another theory is that the sheer number of sauropods stamping around tended to kill small plants and drive the poo into the ground where it could no longer be used. Yet another theory holds that the crappodons consumed copious amounts of the other sauropods' droppings, but did not leave behind enough of their own droppings to compensate for the amount they consumed. At any rate, there were large swings in sauropod population as they ate off the plants and then died out, before the ecology finally stabilized near the end of the Jurassic.
The Cretaceous was the period during which dinosaurs truly flourished. Not only were all the previous families of dinosaurs still around, but new ones, such as ceratopsians, ankylosaurs and pachycephalosaurs also evolved. Despite increasing numbers of volcanos, plant life also grew much better than it did during the Jurassic, probably because of flowers and insect pollinators, neither of which had existed before. Grass was still not around, and the dinosaurs anxiously awaited its coming so they could get stoned. Unfortunately, they were doomed never to enjoy this pleasure; they had all died off by the time grass evolved during the Tertiary.
Not only the dinosaurs evolved during the Cretaceous. Also notable were more primitive mammals, the largest of which was the size of a
canadian beaver, and the pterosaurs. These latter included the two largest flying animals ever, the mighty quetzalcoatlus and the slightly smaller pteranodon. Why the pteranodon has the 'don' ending nobody knows, considering it means 'tooth' in greek and the pteranodon didn't have any teeth. As for the quetzalcoatlus, it is the only known creature to have been named after something else (the aztec god quetzalcoatl) which was named after something else (the south american bird called the quetzal) which was in turn named after something else (the letter 'q'). There were also more advanced birds, although being smaller than pterosaurs, no one really gives a shit about them.
- Impact theory: That a giant rock, some 10 kilometers wide, came flying out of space and crashed into the Gulf of Mexico. This threw up an enormous amount of dust into the atmosphere, which caused surface temperatures to plummet and killed off most plant life. In turn, the animals that lived off the plants died of starvation, followed by the animals that lived off other animals. Only those with grow ops (naturally the more intelligent birds and mammals) managed to survive. This theory also explains why the volcanos suddenly stopped erupting during the Tertiary; the lower surface temperatures simply solidified all the lava.
- Volcano theory: That exponentially increasing volcanic activity occurred during the end of the Cretaceous caused a dust scenario similar to that in the impact theory.
- Climate change theory: That a slight shift in the climate either killed off necessary plants (namely marijuana) or caused all baby dinosaurs to be the same gender (which would have resulted in a brief period of worldwide homosexual orgies before all the dinosaurs died out).
- Cosmic radiation theory: That two nearby black holes collided, causing a gamma ray burst that incinerated a good portion of the Earth and caused major climate change and toxic pollution that killed off all the dinosaurs who didn't die from the radiation itself.
- Hunting theory: That time travelers from our own future or advanced aliens hunted all the dinosaurs to extinction, either for fun, to eat their meat, or both. The theory involving aliens is quite intruiging, as it explains a number of things, not least the fact that only dinosaurs became extinct. This is because dinosaurs were the largest and meatiest animals around (this explains why they took elvis.)
- Alternative volcano theory: That the volcanos ceased erupting not because of colder temperatures but because of a change in the Earth's mantle, and all the plants that had evolved since the Triassic to make use of ash-rich soil simply died from lack of proper nutrients.
- Nuclear war theory: That intelligent life evolved near the end of the Cretaceous and subsequently blew itself and most of the world into oblivion with nuclear weapons. This is a rather pessimistic theory, because it indicates that something similar will probably happen in the near future.
- Mass suicide theory: That emo became a major fad among dinosaurs, who all immediately committed suicide.
- Attention span theory: That dinosaurs had simply been around for too long and were starting to get boring, so they died off in order to be replaced by mammals (admittedly a mistake, considering dinosaurs are way more interesting than mammals).
- Litter theory The theory that, because all dinosaurs are known to be colour blind, they couldnt see which bin to put tin cans in, and therefore died of Havingacanofbeansstuckdownmythroatoitis.