Saturday, December 20, 2008

Feeling Your Age

I hadn’t run in a week because of a vicious head cold which left me hacking, blowing, and feeling generally wrung out. So, I set out on a 2 ½ mile run despite still suffering, determined to turn a corner on this illness and reassert some control over my life. It’s an illusion, I know, and I know that because I’m feeling my age. I am no longer in that period of life where immortality is a given, where you believe things will only get better and you with them. “I wish I didn’t know now what I didn’t know then.”

I wonder about the creatures whose remains I find as fossils – did they understand what it meant to feel their age? Not their geological age, we are the only living creatures ever to be aware of that. No, I wonder what, if anything, crossed an aging Dunkleosteus’ mind as the snap of scissor-like plates in its armor-encased mouth failed to slice its intended prey in the bloody Devonian seas, or a veteran Carcharocles megalodon’s mind when a river dolphin danced away from the 6 inch tall teeth of this mammoth shark, or any of nature’s predators when, what used to come easily, now eludes them? I suspect that, if any animal other than we humans ever felt a chill about the meaning of this experience in the latter portion of a life, it must be the predators. Prey animals don’t live long enough to experience it, and, besides, fear is their watchword anyway.


The Dunkleosteus was a 20-foot long armored monster that cruised the ocean in the Devonian period, some 360 million years ago. This fish was truly a terrible and ugly thing. The megalodon, the largest predator to ever live, stretched some 50 feet and weighed upwards of 50 tons. This shark lived much more recently, beginning during latter portions of the Miocene epoch (perhaps as early as 30 million years ago) and surviving through the Pliocene epoch, at least.

Check out the brief facts put together by the BBC on these and other sea monsters.The Dunkleosteus piece is at:
The megalodon one is at:
Be sure to look at the very short videos for each animal. The computer animation is sufficiently crude to make it all seem real, particularly if you view them full screen.

A good, informal treatment of the megalodon is Megalodon: Hunting the Hunter by Mark Renz. You can read a bit of the book on Google Books:,M1"

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