Not everyone can have those T-Rex, leading-man good looks.
We all feel a reflexive awww when we think about the dinosaurs who roamed the earth millions of years before human beings came in from stage left. Their majestic size and impossible anatomy sets our imagination alight, wondering how it must feel to see a brachiosaurus reaching up to eat the leaves of a tree or a carnosaur brutally dispatching its quarry. But not all dinosaurs were lucky enough to get the Spielberg treatment. These evolutionary mulligans had great ideas, like huge arms and fringed bones, but they ultimately didn’t work out. While I salute their adventurous experimental spirit, I’m still going to roast them in a listicle.
The Longisquama’s body is the result of a late-night design session where everybody got punch-drunk and loopy and went, “Whatever, man, we got all these hockey sticks laying around, what if we give this little rebel a hockey-spine? Done. Adjourn for lunch.” How does this messed-up little guy even move without falling over onto his side and staying there forever? Was its body just left in the drafts while it tried growing a sail or spine-knives or something? Even its name sounds like something the designers blurted in a panic when somebody asked what the name of this tragedy was. Somebody, anybody, please help the Longisquama.
It’s important to push the boundaries of the medium and take an element to its logical conclusion because we never know what is enough unless you know what is more than enough. In the case of the Mamenchisaurus, this meant evolution grafting a huge, jacked neck onto a little tiny guy and sending it out into the Jurassic Period all on its own. This poor thing. It looks like if you attached a ship’s mast to a baby rhinoceros and then left it to fate. It’s hard to hear, but we all allowed this to happen to the Mamenchisaurus.
The Incisivosaurus is what happens when nature hits the “randomize” button during character creation. It’s like if a goose went through the telepod chamber from The Fly with a really jacked rabbit and gave up on growing fingers halfway through because it was too focused on filling its beak with teeth. It maintains the constant pose of a crossing guard attempting to maneuver a huge crowd of children racing toward him on bicycles–it’s not clear what the splaying of the arms is meant to accomplish, but it’s important to try. I have no idea what this dinosaur ate, and would accept any answer from other incisivosauri to wild-caught jellybeans.
The masiakasaurus is what happens when mother nature turned the “teeth” knob all the way to the right just to see what would happen. That’s way too many teeth. You remember that friend you had in high school who attached too many spikes to their denim jacket because they wanted to be as punk as possible and also to prevent any potential human contact? That’s the Masiakasaurus, only it’s the front of their ridiculous face. They only came up to about waist-high on a human being, so I’m guessing that roughly 80% of their body weight is teeth and they just moved along the ground like a mop full of fangs.
You know what’s amazing? Some limbs being much, much bigger than other limbs–for example, the huge-legged Oryctodromeus, who has small little arms capable of holding maybe one Dixie cup at a time. The Oryctodromeus’ name means “digging runner.” You might be thinking to yourself, “How does anything dig and run at the same time?” and the answer is, “Look at this dinosaur’s fiddly little grabbers that are apparently meant for something other than making pathetic little motions to make you give it your food out of pity.” It’s like having a name that translates to “chewing singer” or “crawling bungee jumper.”
If the Triceratops had a brother whose parents kept it chained in the attic and fed it fish heads from a bucket because they lived in fear of the day that the sun shone upon this abomination, it would be the Kosmoceratops. It looks like a half-opened umbrella on a four-wheeler. It looks like a half-melted Madame Tussaud’s statue of a Triceratops got smashed against an American bulldog. It has a beak! There’s always something weird about listening to the unfinished demo version of a song that you know eventually turns into something great. Similarly, there are some things we weren’t meant to see, and one of those things is the wretched, wretched Kosmoceratops.
The J. Alfred Prufrock of dinosaurs–this oblong pervert with long, horrible arms and a head shaped like something scraped from the bottom of a theater seat looked in the mirror before going out and thought, “Better gussy up by attaching a disgusting wig to my tail.” The Psittacosaurus, whose name means “parrot lizard,” has the posture of something whose name translates to “parrot lizard,” and I’m genuinely astounded that this thing was able to remain vertical while doing whatever disgusting things it did during the Cretaceous Period. Maybe the Roger Klotz-looking tuft of bristles on its gross tail were meant to provide a counterweight, or maybe they were there to help the Psittacosaurus cling to its youth by providing the illusion of a virile tail full of hair.
The face of the Pegomastax is the beaked nightmare that sits at the center of time, screaming in a voice like Satan’s food processor. This thing had the teeth of a naked mole rat, the buff hindquarters of an Olympic powerlifter, the bristles of a hairbrush, and expressions that make me want to pluck out my eyes so that I never again have to look upon its horrible, horrible gaze. It appears to have been a herbivore, which makes sense – it’s possible to maintain a perfectly vegetarian diet when the only thing you eat is the screams of children and the melted runoff of their nightmares.
No. Nope. You cut those nails right this minute, I swear to God. The Therizinosaurus, who looked like Freddy Krueger’s fursona, had the misfortune of being something that occupied a corporeal form during the Cretaceous period, during which time it ran its huge, nasty hand-rakes all over everything. They were upsettingly huge, towering at about six meters tall, and their faces were locked into a permanent configuration of confusion and anguish – which isn’t surprising, given that their hands were a collection of swords and they were herbivores, which is the evolutionary equivalent of a yoga-loving green-juice drinker with a gun rack.
The Deinocheirus didn’t need to have these enormous fringed gauntlets on its forearms. It didn’t have to have the torso of a wombat attached to the legs of a bird and the tail of a forgotten muppet. But the Deinocheirus’ name means “terrible hand,” which tells you everything you need to know about this dinosaur, whose illegally long arms were a subject of a whole lot of paleontological debate before they were able to, unfortunately, attach those EIGHT-FOOT-LONG arms (that’s as much as at least four toddlers) to the body of this dinosaur, and thus create a biblical punishment on legs–extremely buff legs.