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Where Have All the Monsters Gone?

Why aren’t dinosaurs roaming the earth today or giant sharks eating fishing boats whole?
| Aug 22, 2018 | 19 comments |

Against my better judgment, I recently saw the Jason Statham vs. giant shark brawl The Meg in theaters. It wasn’t as bad as it could have been, but it was plenty awful. If you’re looking for a cheesy popcorn movie to fill a late summer afternoon, go for it. I must say that I was pretty impressed with the Megalodon special effects (entirely CGI, unlike monster movies of yore that used animatronics and people in rubber suits). CGI can be less scary than real-life effects, but that’s neither here nor there. What got me thinking was: where have all the monsters gone?

Everyone knows that the world used to be the stomping ground for terrifying behemoths. Fossils fill our museums and imaginations (and movie screens) with monstrous creatures that make today’s largest animals seem cute. No one can deny the fascination of dinosaurs – in my early teens, I became practically obsessed after seeing Jurassic Park on the big screen when I was 11 years old. And while the land dwellers get most of the attention, just Google “prehistoric sea monsters” and you’ll find a horde of monstrosities big enough to gobble a T. Rex in just a few bites. The Megalodon is probably the most famous, with a length equal to a school bus and a mouth large enough to swallow a great white shark in one gulp. Jaws is just a guppy compared to this bad boy.

Image copyright Warner Bros.

Thankfully, our world today is free from these mega-predators and jungle-stompers. Cryptozoologists relentlessly pursue the possibility that creatures such as the Loch Ness monster (a plesiosaur) or Mokele Mbembe (an apatosaur) still lurk in our lakes and forests. and for those of us who prefer to keep our monsters fictional, our entertainment is stuffed to the gills with giants who seem to have a grudge against our biggest cities. I know my opinion is unpopular, but I hated Guillermo del Toro’s Pacific Rim and I thoroughly enjoyed Roland Emmerich’s Godzilla. During the ads before The Meg, the next Godzilla film was previewed and it looks to be the most monstrous film of the 21st century.

Why aren’t dinosaurs roaming the earth today or giant sharks eating fishing boats whole? I’m no paleontologist, but I do believe in a literal Genesis creation account and a literal worldwide flood. I believe that the dinosaurs were created right alongside kittens and monkeys, and they would have been nearly wiped out in the flood, aside from the pairs that Noah brought inside the ark. So what made them die out while other species thrived? Many books from a creationist perspective have been written on the subject, and the prevailing theory is that the post-flood world just wasn’t suitable for their kind anymore. It does stand to reason that in a flooded world, food would have been scarce, and big animals need a lot of food. The biggest land animals today are a fraction of the size of the dinosaur skeletons that have been unearthed. I’ve read news stories of rampaging elephants in Africa and India; can you imagine the damage an irritated Brachiosaurus would cause?

Image copyright Warner Bros.

Many people point to the descriptions of the behemoth and leviathan in the book of Job as evidence that dinosaurs still existed after the flood. Job is the oldest book of the Bible, predating Moses, and even though a post-flood world would have been inhospitable to dinosaurs, they wouldn’t have just died off right away. We may never know what animals God was referring to in that book, but I can say that I am glad they’re not traipsing around today (unless you hold to the laughable theories that a behemoth and leviathan are a hippopotamus and an alligator, respectively).

I admit that I have less insights into why these oceans aren’t still teeming with monsters, though as movies like The Meg point out, there is still so much in our oceans that we don’t know about. It is obvious that prehistoric monsters aren’t swimming around in droves, and this is a good thing. The fact that our world is largely free of giant-sized predators is very fortunate, and very likely ordained by God. Seeing as how creation groans and struggles against itself, the presence of massive predators would create enormous problems for the human race. We’ve caused a lot of problems ourselves, but unlike the animals, we are made in God’s image, and we are the first priority. Personally, I’m glad the dinosaurs are extinct.

…Or are they?

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notleia
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notleia

Completely rando question: Since you’re the horror guy, would you watch Netflix’s Devilman Crybaby? Granted, there are other things that may incline you to not watch it, like SO MUCH nudity, but they do have an interesting design for Satan. Also a great soundtrack and a good art style.

Mark Carver
Guest

Haha, well I’m actually not a horror guy (I like grim and dark but I have little stomach for horror) and I don’t watch anime. And it may sound surprising, but I’ve lost most interest in Gothic creepiness in general. I don’t even listen to heavy metal anymore. I’ve been more consistent in my walk with God and the more time I spend in prayer and the Bible, the less interest I have in darker things.

notleia
Guest
notleia

Welp, Devilman Crybaby certainly has grim-dark covered.

But I get this feeling (erroneous or otherwise) like you’re turning into the sort of person that 20-year-old-you swore you’d never become. Is there an existential crisis on the horizon, or is becoming An Old mundane enough that it creeps up on you without a whimper, let alone a bang?

Travis Perry
Editor

For a while, the hypothesis was at least current that the atmosphere of Earth was at one time denser than it is now (it was in the nineties I read about it). I think it was a widely-accepted explanation of a problem the really big dinosaurs had–they were too big to hold up their weight, based on what we know of big mammals. (The thicker atmosphere was thought to help in that it gave more oxygen to dinosaur muscles, allowing them to have more efficient muscles and a more productive circulatory system.)

But now the thinking is that dinosaurs had extra light bones like birds and used an air sack system like birds that allowed them to be bigger than mammals can ever get. I don’t hear much about the denser atmosphere hypothesis any more–I’m not entirely sure why that is, but it could be there simply was no explanation as to why the atmosphere would dramatically become less dense.

Please note I’m not as knowledgeable on this topic as I am theories of physics (though I do read a bit of paleontology), so take what I say about this with a grain of salt. But I think a change in atmospheric pressure seems really to have happened, because fossils of dragonflies with two-foot wingspans have been found. And they would not be able to fly in our atmosphere today…(a thicker atmosphere would provide more lift). Likewise with the largest pterosaurs would have a hard time getting off the ground in the Earth’s current atmosphere.

Couple that with findings of temperate zone animals at what shows every sign of being polar zones–meaning Earth right now is significantly colder than at least some points in the distant past–and it seems the big monsters died out because of significant atmospheric and climate changes.

That, along with human beings hunting to extinction anything they saw as a serious threat, explains where the monsters went.

Mark Carver
Guest

That sounds reasonable. Some also postulate that the “gap theory” was when dinosaurs lived and died (hence older fossils). Either way, I’m glad that we don’t have to worry about getting chomped anymore.

Autumn Grayson
Guest

There’s also the big meteor thing that was said to wipe out all the dinosaurs. That would have made it where only small creatures in certain niches were able to survive.

Travis Perry
Editor

Autumn, but the puzzling thing about the big meteor thing is lizards are thought to have survived but dinosaurs didn’t. “That’s because dinosaurs were bigger,” someone could reply. But in fact, there were many different types of little dinosaurs and none of them lived. Why?

It’s as if there is something in the dinosaur body design that’s incompatible with modern times, as opposed to an accident that killed them but let (less adaptable) lizards survive.

Autumn Grayson
Guest

Some people say they evolved into birds, or were out competed by mammals, etc. that were better adapted. I’m mainly going off documentaries I’ve listened to, though, and chances are documentaries are going to focus more on the meteor.

Travis Perry
Editor

Yes, people say dinos evolved into birds–but the first birds were from (supposedly) BEFORE the big meteor hit, dinos and birds living side by side. Why did birds live and dinos not? Why did lizards live and dinos not?

I haven’t heard good explanations for the questions I just posed.

Ron Smorynski
Guest
Ron Smorynski

Please delete this post! I’m working on larger comment! Sign in kept freezing on me!

Ron Smorynski
Guest
Ron Smorynski

Okay, I’m pretty passionate layman on this. Studied Kent Hovin, Ken Ham, Walt Brown to name just a few.

Here’s what methinks the Bible describes.
There was some sort of water/ice layer above. Some disagree due to “greenhouse” affect, but I disagree, we’ve never actually seen a ‘greenhouse’ effect on a churning, swirling hot/cold planet… only what we think happened. So… there must have been a layer above that compressed our atmosphere & kept out UV rays. Athletes today know the healing power of oxygen rich, pressurized hyperbaric chambers. Imagine the entire atmosphere being like that! And we see evidence for it in fossil record! Larger insects, small nosed giant sauropods, flying pterodactyls, etc… And man living 900 years! Makes sense.

It must have been a tropical paradise with vegetation growing year round, rich, iron, big, thick, allowing for bigger creatures with bigger teeth.

So… after flood, described in Bible (Genesis of Noah), several clues to past and present! There will now be seasons, hot/cold, you must now eat meat (veges will lack year round nutritional values), Noah got drunk off grapes & shocked sons (probably 1st drunkeness ever), animals will now naturally fear man! So God gave us the fortitude to hunt them without them always attacking us.

These are all clues as to how God changed pre-flood to post flood and we see that in the fossil record and how life is today. While giant terrible lizards (dinosaurs) were on the Ark, and spread out like all animals as glaciers receded and oceans rose again over next few hundred years, the struggle for food and warm land vs mammals took its toll. Remember, wolves and bears used to populate all of Europe and America, today, we killed them off, BUT they could flee to colder mountainous climates! And crocs/alligators can hide in remote swamps.

However large dinosaurs would have to live where man wants to live! In warm food rich environments! No man wants a ‘terrible lizard’ near their village. They were also easy to kill! Early morning fire raid! Use dogs and pigs to get their eggs. Remember, larger dinos would need much longer to breed.

Today we see fewer large creatures anyway, due to the length of time it takes them to get that big, the food needed, and we hunt them. We can now reach pretty much all remote areas to hunt big game. Reptiles & fish btw, do not stop growing as mammals do, if given enough time and food and aging, they’d grow huge. But with thin atmosphere, UV rays bursting through, and man’s proclivity to hunt big game, reptiles and fish can’t get behemoth size anymore.

And that, is observable science!

Travis Perry
Editor

This answer is in some ways compatible with my answer, but Young Earth Creationists have in fact done very little to explain how Earth’s atmosphere used to be denser, because “canopy theories” fail to work out mathematically from what I understand.

But yeah, clearly environment of Planet Earth was once radically different from how it is now.

Kerry Nietz
Member

I think there might be a couple factors involved.

First, if dinosaurs were reptile-like in the way they grew, then the longer the life span, the larger the animal. One thing Genesis describes before the flood are much longer lifespans for men. Maybe the same was true for dinosaurs? They got big because they were alive a long time before the flood.

After the flood, it seems every lifespan (not just man) was shortened. So dinosaurs aren’t going to have the opportunity to get large. Those that were large already, though, are easy targets for hunters (dragon slayers?). Like the mammoth, a single beast will feed a lot of folks.

So maybe the big ones got hunted and there was never time for them to grow big again. Any smaller dinosaurs fell prey to smarter and more nimble mammals. (Man included.)

Travis Perry
Editor

Kerry, many dinosaurs had body plans unlike lizards. So maybe we could say they were reptile, but growing modern lizards as large as they will grow would not render dinos…so why did the lizards live and the dinosaurs die?

Rachel Nichols
Guest

Hollow bones and warm blooded…speculation I know since we have no blood or bones to examine…these creatures wouldn’t be lizards at all. Another class of vertebrate altogether.

Reginald O'Donoghue
Guest

Can Christians please stop with this hatred of God’s creation, God promises to preserve the animals from destruction after the flood, we should not be glad when anything goes extinct.

Also, it is not laughable to suggest that Behemoth and Leviathan were hippopotamus’ and crocodiles. Behemoth is described as living among lotus leaves and reeds. It’s ‘tail’ is clearly it’s penis. Oh and genesis is not a work of science.

Lorehaven
Guest

I was tracking a little bit, even past the “tail” apart, until the comment “[G]enesis is not a work of science.” I’m not sure anyone claims that it is. Your comment is also not a “work of science,” and yet you (reasonably) expect people to read and engage with your comment with as much respect for your authorial intent as we can. So I’m not sure what the point is there. 🙂

Travis Perry
Editor

Your comment got me curious about how large a penis a hippo has, since I didn’t already know. Turns out they have a relatively small member for as big as they are and in fact the males barely show it at all almost all the time–both it and their testes retract into their bodies.

So I think we can clearly say that “tail” is not a penis in reference to the Behemoth…

Also, I think Leviathan is described as living in the depth of the sea. Is that were crocodiles live? Er, no. Though we could say (if we wish to be bracingly non-literal) that real crocodiles inspired the fictional Leviathan. I’m sure you can imagine some combination of creatures that would create a Behemoth…still, it is pretty interesting that creatures once lived with literal massive tails…