I’m working on a new story about dinosaurs. In my childhood, these terrible lizards were an obsession. I memorized dozens of them. They are no less impressive to children today. When I visited the American Museum of Natural History, I was surrounded by awestruck kids who could barely speak at the sight of such enormous, incredible monsters.
I went there to rekindle my old fascination and came across this fellow. His official name is Deinonychus (dye-nonny-kus) antirrhopus (“terrible claw”), an early Cretaceous period non-avian maniraptor. The paleontologist John Ostrom came up with a revolutionary theory in the 1960s that some of these creatures were quick, agile, and predatory. This undercut the prevailing notion that dinosaurs were large, slow-footed beasts, and made them even more frightening and astonishing.
Although the text beside the display says the creature was non-avian—which I assume means it didn’t actually fly—the fossil is posed in its glass cabinet (to my bewilderment) as if it was hurtling through the air.
Look at those fantastic teeth! The bones of its skull are full of gaps, which suggests that its head was much lighter than some of its theropod contemporaries. I eyeballed the length of its upper and lower arm and leg bones. They looked shockingly similar to the proportions of a human skeleton. In fact, as I stood near it in the noisy exhibition hall, I imagined this creature sitting in the driver seat of a pickup truck with its tail thrashing in the back seat!