Wednesday, March 6, 2013

So You Wanna Not Get Eaten: a Time-Traveler's Field Guide to Prehistoric Animals

    (Based entirely on what I learned watching the BBC series "Walking with Beasts," which is both entertaining and informative, but also wildly disturbing.)

     I suppose if you were planning to go time traveling to, say, the early Eocene for some stupid reason (seriously, of all the times you could go to, you choose the Golden Age of Birds? Whatever), you could just take a textbook or something, but this guide will be more useful. A textbook might be able to help you identify the big doofy looking thing that's eating your intestines, if that's what you really wanted to use your dying moments on. But this guide will tell you ahead of time, "Hey, stay away from the big doofy looking thing, it's a real jerk," which is infinitely preferable. 

     The bastard child of a crocodile, a whale, and an otter that manages to disappoint and embarrass all three of its theoretical parents. Almost scary, but it's like it spread itself too thin trying to be the best of both worlds (land and sea) and ended up a giant toothy turd. 

     Recommended course of action: They don't have ears, so they hear on land by putting their jaw to the ground and sensing vibrations, and in the water they ambush like a crocodile while critters are drinking at ye olde rivers edge. Basically don't trip over it or go stomping around the riverbeds to get a refreshment (I feel like I shouldn't even have to tell you this, but if you find yourself 50 million years in the past, don't drink the water.)

     Giant, bus-sized "killer whales," in the sense that they are whales and they kill things (not so much in a "looks-like-Shamu" sense). Eats SHARKS for breakfast, a habit so badass it makes Chuck Norris a little uneasy. 

     Recommended course of action: Get a bigger boat.

     If you've ever played Borderlands: basically these are Skags. They're vicious and ugly and they'll kill you for funzies. If you haven't played Borderlands: these are Pumbaa from the Lion King, hardened by a life of substance abuse and violence, endlessly seeking vengeance 25 years after a gang of corrupt cops unjustly gunned Timon down and went unpunished. Also the vicious, ugly, kill you for funzies part is still true. 

     Recommended course of action: Kill it with fire or learn to enjoy the sensation of flesh being torn from your body.

     Stupid looking as all hell. Big and mean but not scary until it's running right at you with bloodlust in its cold black eyes, like an emu on angel dust. 

     Recommended course of action: Despite looking like a Thanksgiving turkey wearing a novelty Jersey Shore wig, these things are basically what happens when birds go mad with power and they will definitely eat you. Do not engage. Climb a tree and hide, since these losers can't fly. Probably don't make fun of their hairdo. 

     Twelve tons of mostly harmless herbivore. Primarily interested in eating plants and just casually being the biggest mammal ever to walk on land like it ain't no thing.

     Recommended course of action: Try not to become the "Ew, I stepped in something wet" moment in this thing's day. If the opportunity to ride on its back crops up, I'm not saying you should do it, I'm just saying you definitely want your Facebook photo to be of you riding the largest land mammal of all time. 

     Small and super cute, won't eat you unless you politely offer. A little creepy if observed too closely, since after a while its cute little nose wiggle starts to seem obscene.

     Recommended course of action: Observe happily with joy in your heart. Try and cop a snuggle if you aren't too freaked out by the rat tail. Do not get overly attached, as the law of prehistoric creatures dictates that anything cute must be eaten. 

     Kind of an elephant/hippo situation, but lacking the appeal and charm of either of those things. Herbivorous, but probably not going to let you rub its belly either. 

     Recommended course of action: Keep your disgust to yourself as you observe from a discreet distance. It's not polite to stare. 

     Very early and delightfully tiny horse. Likes to roam around the forest eating fermented grapes and getting adorably shnackered.

     Recommended course of action: Take his keys away and call him a cab. 


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