Prehistoric Life Imitates Art

One hallmark of science fiction writers is that they often try to predict the future.  Jules Verne predicted landing on the moon. HG Wells predicted the atomic bomb. At the start of this decade, everyone’s pre-smartphone cell phones looked an awful lot like Jim Kirk’s communicator. And Picard’s handheld tablet seems a lot like an iPad – though obviously not as cool.

Of course, predicting the future is easy and fun (and no one you know will probably be around to give you grief when you’re shown to be off base), but apparently about 10 years ago, moviemakers decided they were going to start predicting the past. And what visionary film was going to chart this new retrognostication?

Ice Age.

And as it turns out a paper published in the most recent edition of the journal Nature describes the remains of the first mammal found from the early Late Cretaceous period in South America. Yawn. Who cares, right? Well, the remains were of a highly derived dryolestoid – a rodent-like creature with big eyes, a long snout and long sharp canines. Sound like any cartoon character you know?


You see, that’s big news around here because one of The Beloved’s favorite cartoon characters is Scrat, the saber-toothed squirrel from the Ice Age movies. In fact, I would argue that the preludes that feature Scrat are the best part of the entire Ice Age oeuvre. I mean, what’s not to love about a slightly crazed saber-toothed squirrel trying to hoard its beloved giant acorn? (Sadly, the eggheads from the University of Louisville didn’t have a sense of whimsy and named the animal Cronopio dentiacutus instead of something righteous like Awesomus scratus.)

Cronopio dentiacutus

And so, while the team behind Ice Age deserves a lot of credit for predicting such an important find, we will have to take a few points off for getting the number of zeroes wrong. Ice Age is supposed to take place tens of thousands of years ago, and I’m afraid the real Scrat lived tens of millions of years ago.

Unless of course, Scrats can time travel — hey, now there’s an idea for a movie!

21 thoughts on “Prehistoric Life Imitates Art

  1. I vote Awesomus scratus.
    Remember the time Scrat would die, go to heaven and set eyes on the golden acorn? And then be drawn back scratching and screaming back to the earth? I love that one.

  2. Rodents is rodents, suppose. We eat squirrel and rabbit, don’t know about rats. They say they carry disease but that’s what they say about pigeons…yet we eat squab. I think it depends where you got it (city being dirty, country being well…organic).

  3. Love this post! I so enjoy googling pictures of the earliest mammals. They are incredible! And is there anything more adorable than Scrat? I think NOT! Awesomus Scratus, for sure!

    • Lauri — one of my favorite parts of a natural history museum is actually the ice-age animals. They were so cool, but don’t get nearly the press of dinosaurs. Can you imagine if they were still around?

  4. Damn, you beat me to it! I guess they were trying to figure out why an insectivore needed these huge canines, I wonder if the whole “adaptation” thing is overblown and they simply “had” huge teeth.

    • I wonder if the real Scrats had huge teeth because they used them to burrow through roots and sod, as gophers do. I’d guess as time went by, there was less need for huge teeth and more for strong, spade-like teeth. Or maybe the big teeth were meant to scare away predators, like the bright coloring on caterpillars and certain poisonous frogs? I don’t know: I’m a science fiction fan, not a scientist! :D

      (And that said, I think fiction frequently outpaces science.)

      • HG — I don’t know why they had such remarkable teeth — can we call them canines, if canines hadn’t evolved yet? — I wonder if there was selective pressure for, you know, looking awesome.

        I think the imagination always outpaces our ability — that’s a great thing.

  5. Pingback: Everyday is Scraturday | Stevil

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s