Tuesday, October 16, 2007

The Riddle Of The Dinosaur by Bert Leston Taylor

The Riddle Of The Dinosaur

Behold the mighty dinosaur,
Famous in prehistoric lore, ,
Not only for his power and strength
But for his intellectual length.

You will observe by his remains
The creature had two sets of brains---
One in his head (the usual place),
The other at his spinal base.

Thus he could reason 'A priori'
As well as 'A posteriori.'
No problem bothered him a bit
He made both head and tail of it.

So wise was he, so wise and solemn,
Each thought filled his spinal column.
If one brain found the pressure strong,
It passed a few ideas along.

If something slipped his forward mind
'Twas rescued by the one behind.
And if in error he was caught
He had a saving afterthought.

As he thought twice before he spoke
He had no judgment to revoke.
Thus he could think without congestion
Upon both sides of every question.

Oh, gaze upon this model beast,
Defunct ten million years at least.
-- Bert Leston Taylor

Here is a poem Daddy got when he bought a selection of fossils. I really like they way he gets not just one, but several plays on words using common phrases. My favorite is, "He made both head and tail of it."

The Stegosaurus is a particularly fascinating dinosaur because scientists can't really agree on what most of its most striking features are for. The "second brain" might have been used for speedier reflexes in the tail, or maybe for extra processing power when under threat, but it's just as likely that the space was filled with an organ for distributing glycogen to the nervous system. Then there's the plates. Were they made for intimidation (so the beast looks bigger), sexual display, heat regulation, armor, or identifying features to tell individuals in the herd apart? There's even debate as to whether the tail spikes (with the cool name of thagomizer--coined by Gary Larson--really, you can look it up) would have been useful in combat.

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