I think you know me. You have definitely seen me before. I am not very famous, more of a mystery to the humans, who study the lore of ancient creatures who walked this planet once, this lore you call palaeontology. But then again, I haven’t made it easy for you, have I? You gave me a strange name: Parasaurolophus.
It sounds nice though. It has a rhythm to it I can’t quite place. But then again, this is a part of who we are, or should I say of who we were? Because for a long time, you could not place us in the grand tree of life. Considering how bright you are, it is very pathetic of how you have struggled to define us. But I guess our crests on our heads are distracting. They appear to have misled you towards many paths of ridicule.
When you first discovered one of us, you thought we were dragons. But we were no dragons. We could never breathe fire. It was our crests you believed were the horns of dragons. But they are not horns or spikes, they are instruments of communication. But more about that later.
When you learned more about the ancient world you first thought we were amphibian. Considering our short legs and long tails and strange beaks, why not, it’s easy to mix up the grand family of reptiles with the noble house of amphibians. When only bones are left and when you know so little, like you do, I guess one can get confused.
And after some more years of thinking you finally managed to classify us as reptiles, as dinosaurs. Well done, you got there in the end. But you still had no clue what to think of our crests. I enjoy that to be honest. It makes me chuckle. I remember you thought we used them for fighting. Fair enough, why not, you like fighting yourself and if you had horns, beautiful crests like we had them, you would only use them for fighting. But we didn’t. Me and my fellow dinosaurs were not that much into fighting.
Another one of you argued that we used them like a snorkel so we could keep our beaks and noses underwater to eat sea grass. I burst out laughing when I heard that one. That’s actually hilarious. But this theory comes from a time when you of course thought most dinosaurs would spend their time in shallow waters because of our weight. But we didn’t. And there was not a single dinosaur that did any snorkelling. I have noticed that you like to project what you usually do, your funny and very often horrible habits, onto other animals.
And later, when you had done some more thinking, you came up with a more elegant theory. One of you observed from other animals, birds for instance, what could have been the purpose of our one-of-a-kind crests. Some of you were very attentive and saw all sorts of male birds displaying beautiful feathers or elaborate beaks to attract females. The one with the most beautiful feathers would convince the female to reproduce. And you were able to observe the same among some of your closer related relatives, the stags. Whatever stag had the most wonderful antlers would get to mate with all the does.
So, there we are, a pretty little theory everyone was happy with and you were also able to adjust it to other dinosaurs like Triceratops. But I mentioned in the beginning that we were a somewhat more mysterious species than most other dinosaurs. Some Parasaurolophus and other hadrosaurid dinosaurs may have used their horns for mating display but we did use our crests for something else, for something not as primitive and base as mating.
But you were not able to unriddle our secret for a very long time because you are so narrow minded. Because you humans believe that anything else but you must be primitive and therefore can only serve basic instincts. I don’t know what exactly changed but at some point, some of you managed to think beyond and realised there could be something more, something more complex. You analysed the fossilised skulls and crests you found and scanned them with the most advanced technology that was available to you.
And then you had it! After the longest time you came up with a brilliant idea that put us into another light. You didn’t see us as simple herbivores anymore that would run from predators and mate whenever they could but you began to saw us for who we really were. We became less animalistic in your point of view and moved closer to the intelligence of human beings.
The scans of the crests revealed that they were hollow and that there were multiple chambers that could open and close. You theorised that these chambers, like a flute, could create many different sounds. And then you wondered, why could we produce different sounds with our crests? What was the evolutionary advantage for us? And the answer was: communication.
With our crests we were able to talk to each other. We were able to inform each other. We were able to socialise with each other. And when we were able to do that there were all sorts of things, we could do. Very much like you, we could tell each other what plants to eat and which ones to leave alone. Warn each other when there was a predator around. Simply, we were able to pass on knowledge, seventy-five million years before you were able to do any of it.
And in contrast to you we did not kill each other with the evolutionary gift of communication. We were a social dinosaur species. The old passed on their knowledge to the young and our communication made us stronger and not weaker. It is ridiculous to think that you praise yourselves on having the gift of communication when all you do is wage war against each other. And don’t tell me you are not doing it; you are doing it. My laughter about your ridiculous ways of life turned into shock and horror when I learned what you do every day. In your civilised time of the twenty first century there have never been so many of your kind in need, in pain and in despair than at any time before. Your complex structures, all your opinions and all your communication has made you unable to listen and understand the truth hidden among the noise you create.
And truth be told I am glad that me and all my family members have died out so long ago. We were a social species that informed and cared for one another. We lived among great predators but none of them as great as you. Homo sapiens. You defined yourselves as the wise human, or the sensible human. But maybe you should reconsider this definition and call yourself the killing human. Because that’s what you do.
I am glad that I died out seventy- five million years ago. Because now the only thing you can do is come up with stories about me. You assume, you study my petrified bones, and most of the time you are wrong. But I don’t have to mind because I am long dead. So, I am glad about that. If I was alive today, I would not be happy at all. If I was alive, you would not study me. You would kill me.
One comment on “Parasaurolophus”
Great story. Thanks!