Happy Independence Day!
It's the 175th anniversary of the signing of the Texas Declaration of Independence, so I thought I'd do a post on big giant lizards in Houston.
One of the more entertaining aspects of writing novels, in general, and a Cretaceous time-travel novel, in particular, is the research. With THE CHRONAL ENGINE, I had to (re)create an entire ecosystem, which provided an excuse to, among other things, go to zoos and natural history museums.
While (non-avian) dinosaurs are no longer with us, we still have the descendants and/or relatives of many creatures that survived the K-T extinction, including alligators and monitor lizards (and birds, of course). Above, is a photo of me at the Houston Zoo in front of their komodo dragon, the largest monitor lizard. Although its bite is septic, the komodo doesn't really look all that fearsome, particularly behind three-inch glass. Appearances of course can be deceiving, though, and I really wouldn't want to encounter one in the wild.
It's of particular interest to me, though, for a couple reasons: first, monitor lizards are known from the Cretaceous (dinosaurs weren't the only great big scaly things in the ecosystem back then!).
Second, it's related to the mosasaur, the orca-sized (20-30 feet long) aquatic predator from the North American inland sea of the late Cretaceous. Shown below is the Onion Creek mosasaur, on display at the Texas Memorial Museum in Austin:
Below, I'm still at the Houston Zoo, peering at the albino alligator.
Immediately below is a close-up of the animal's forelimb. It's kind of fascinating, how much you can see of the scales on the white animal.
Below, at the Houston Natural Sciences Museum, I'm standing in front of what I believe is a Nile crocodile.
Both the alligator and the crocodile are much smaller than Deinosuchus riograndensis (found in the Big Bend area):
See, everything is bigger in Texas!