Published on November 21st, 2017 | by Guest Blogger


Paleontology from an Amateur Perspective 1

I have the great opportunity to write about paleontology. Paleontology is something I’ve always wanted to be involved with, but it’s something I never pursued academically. I have acquired several books on the subject that I have studied, and once I exhausted those resources, I stopped. Life got in the way and my dinosaur knowledge, beyond Jurassic Park, stagnated. I’ve since received my B.A. in Creative Writing from Southern New Hampshire University. From there it seemed natural that I combine two of my loves–writing and dinosaurs.

For many kids growing up, prehistoric life and dinosaurs in particular opened up a world entirely unlike the one where we presently live. As a child, it was beyond my comprehension that creatures could grow to such enormous sizes. Of course, as an adult, I know not every species of dinosaur was the size of a dozen school buses. By seven years old I was already writing about struggles between Tyrannosaurus and Triceratops. I think my 2nd-grade teacher was also interested because I distinctly remember getting a good comment at the top of my paper. I was well on my way to becoming something I’ve always wanted to be: a Paleontologist. Alas, that dream never came to fruition. My life has brought me to writing while I remain an amateur paleontologist.

What strikes me is how continued research and technology helped uncover how these terrible lizards lived all those eons ago. We’ve come along way since the first dinosaur discovery in Maastricht. I grew up thinking dinosaurs were massive lumbering beasts, dragging their tails on the ground, brainless, cold-blooded, just waiting for the asteroid to hit. Of course, now we know that isn’t the case. As a student in elementary school, I’d borrow the same dinosaur books from the school library. Some I may have never returned. I recall one passage about a Tyrannosaur wandering the plains for food and coming upon a herd of Styracosaurus protecting their young within a circle of horns. The very next page exclaimed that the Tyrannosaur was now “wild with hunger” and spotted a lone Triceratops. After a long bloody battle, the tyrant king won his meal.

It was stories like these that increased my fascination. By my preteen years, I became familiar with the names, which periods each lived in, what determined whether they were dinosaurs or other reptiles like Dimorphodon, which if I’m not mistaken is their walking gait. If the animal moved with an S-shaped movement from side to side, like an iguana, then it was not a dinosaur. If the feet were not directly underneath the body, but off to the side, it was a lizard or a mammal-like lizard. I’m assuming this had something to do with the hip structure. I’m aware of the different hip structures within the dinosaur family and how that determines if they belonged to either order Saurischia or Ornithischia.

As most who visit this website and listen to this podcast will know, the majority of the dinosaurs we’re familiar with were either found in western North America or northern Europe, specifically the UK. I’ve always been interested in dinosaurs discovered in places like Africa, Australia, Antarctica, China, and South America. They looked different–had different names like Spinosaurus and Yangchuanosaurus. As an amateur dinosaur enthusiast, it’s sometimes difficult to wrap my mind around the fact that these animals lived millions of years ago, and in different parts of the world. And as popular as Stegosaurus and Triceratops are, the chances of them meeting were zero, as Stegosaurus lived in the early-mid Jurassic period and Triceratops lived during the late Cretaceous.

Before I go any further, that will wrap up my initial introduction about myself and my very non-scientific interest in paleontology. Next time I’d like to get into more specific details; meanwhile, I will get caught up on recent findings.

By: Eric Onkenhout

I am a recent graduate of SNHU, with a BA in creative writing-fiction. You can find me in the dictionary under dinosaur and astronomy enthusiast, and massive Star Wars fan. I write for,, and occasionally for And my own blog


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