Today’s Wonder of the Day was inspired by aneeta. aneeta Wonders, “What was before dinosaurs? ” Thanks for WONDERing with us, aneeta!

When you think of fossils and prehistoric times, what do you picture? Many kids probably think of the many “terrible lizards” we know as dinosaurs.

Dinosaurs still fascinate kids and adults alike today. It’s so much fun to imagine what the Earth looked like millions of years ago. What would life be like if Tyrannosaurus Rex still roamed the Earth?

But were dinosaurs the first living things on Earth? Or were there other animals on Earth before the dinosaurs ruled the world? Dinosaurs did indeed rule Earth for millions of years. But they weren’t the first to do so! There were animals that roamed the world long before they did.

In fact, life existed for hundreds of millions of years before the dinosaurs. And early life came in many shapes and sizes! Some of the most interesting animals lived during the Carboniferous period. At that time, Earth was covered in hot, humid swamps and rainforests. These places were home to many large amphibians.

One of the bizarre creatures that lived in those swamps was Diploceraspis. What did this animal look like? Imagine a salamander that’s three feet long. Now, give it a head shaped like a boomerang. Now you have a good idea of what Diploceraspis looked like. How would you like to run into one of those while traveling through the swamps?

The world wasn’t all large, strange amphibians. There were also giant insects! During this time period, Earth’s atmosphere had much more oxygen than it does today. This led to much larger flying bugs.

For example, Meganeura was a giant dragonfly. It lived in the prehistoric swamps of Earth. Have you ever seen a modern dragonfly? If so, you know they can be much larger than a typical insect. However, Meganeura might have been the size of a large bird, such as an eagle!

If Meganeura sounds like quite a sight, then you would also be amazed by Arthropleura. This was a giant centipede. It likely stretched to lengths of eight feet or more! And if that’s not enough, scientists also think there were spiders the size of cats!

Over time, larger reptiles evolved. Earth became hotter and drier. Reptiles bridged the gap between large amphibians and the first dinosaurs.

One such creature was Dimetrodon, a meat-eating predator with a huge sail on its back. Scientists believe the huge sail may have been used to help Dimetrodon warm up faster in the morning. This allowed it to feed on other rainforest animals before they got up and got going.

What else walked the Earth hundreds of millions of years ago? There are likely plenty of creatures left to discover. Do early forms of life interest you? If so, maybe you have a future in paleontology! What new fossils might you unearth?

Standards: CCRA.L.3, CCRA.L.6, CCRA.R.1, CCRA.R.2, CCRA.R.4, CCRA.R.10, CCRA.SL.1, CCRA.W.9

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