Now that’s what I call a monster

My modern day pipefish has nothing on Graham Beard's ammonite

I use my best Dracula voice.

“Come, my son. Ve must hunt down some babies so ve can feed the monstah.”

“You’re sick, dad.”

He comes anyway of course and when we get to the pond he’s just as diligent as I am about netting the hatchling minnows for the bucket.

Once we get 30 or so, they’ll go up to the house and into the 50-gallon fish tank, where they’ll be greeted by an eager Bob.

Barracuda Bob, that is, a freshwater pipefish and voracious predator, his long, slender mouth filled with wicked, razor-sharp teeth.

Just five minutes later we have our quota.

“Come on,” I say to the darting minnows. “I vould like to introduce you to my … friend.”

Now, Bob is pretty small for a monster, only about five lean, hungry inches of pure toothy terror — impressive, but only for his size.

You can’t say that about Graham Beard’s new creature. Long dead though it may be, it’s much more monsterly. That giant ammonite (photo page A1, story page A19) would have been an armour-clad, tentacled horror, five feet in diameter, with a poisoned beak and jet propulsion.

They probably would have acted like their distant grandcousins, modern day squid, hunting in packs, crawling along the bottom of the shallow sea above what is now Nanaimo or jetting through the water above it. They could have swarmed in beaked dozens or even hundreds, their giant shells clacking together as they devoured everything in their path.

Graham figures it’s a sure thing they all died out in the great extinction, 65 million years ago and he’s probably right. Like the modern nautilus, ammonites’ chambered shells would have been filled with gas and would float, so when they died the shells would wash up on beaches, no matter how far down in the inky ocean depths they lived. That hasn’t happened and ammonites most certainly only exist in the fossil record.

Just think though, what would happen if a modern human were to somehow travel 70 million years back in time to the Upper Cretacious, landing with a big splash just offshore in a tropical lagoon:

After sputtering to the surface, he begins swimming for the shore, but after a dozen strokes or so, he notices a large, moss-covered rock about a dozen metres to his left. He swims on, but now there’s another one, this time to his right — he’s sure it hadn’t been there mere seconds ago.

Even as he looks, another large rock bobs to the surface about 20 metres ahead. He turns to his left again and the rock … thing … is closer now, much closer.

He swims faster, frightened, but more of the … whatever they are … are bobbing up all around him, three, now four between him and the shore.

He looks in the water below … just in time to see the tentacles reaching for his face.

There’s a sharp pain and his legs go numb as he’s dragged head-first beneath the waters of the rapidly-reddening lagoon.

Forget Frankenstein or the mummy. That’s my kind of monster! If Graham can ever bring those babies back to life, a la Jurassic Park, I’m going to be the first in line to get me one for the pond.

I don’t care how much it costs — or vat I have to feed it.

Happy Halloween!


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