Back to Nature (Published on - Jan. 17, 2007)
Living with ancients
Photo by Rick Tremmel
Birds are the only dinosaurs to survive the mass extinction event 65 million years ago. An anhinga air-dries his wings.
Are you aware that dinosaurs live all around us today? Scientists at the American Museum of Natural History estimate that more than 18,000 species of birds are alive today.

In June 1998, National Geographic announced in a press conference that China’s Liaoning Province’s rich fossil beds had yielded yet another major discovery of two fossils. These 120 million-year-old specimens have distinctive feather imprints supporting the theory that birds are dinosaurs.


Although alligators are classified as reptiles they are in fact closely related to birds. Theory has it that the feathers on birds are actually elongated scales. Alligators and their relatives are the last of the living reptiles that are closely related to dinosaurs. Although the alligator is considered threatened they are making a healthy comeback.

“These fascinating animals date back 230 million years to the Triassic period. Alligators have existed unchanged for the past 65 million years. They’re modern dinosaurs!”


A different kind of dinosaur visited our garden recently. He hid under the begonia leaves while enjoying the cool, damp ground near the water garden. He was a crusty old fellow with a bit of an attitude, but considering he’s from a family that has been on this earth for more than 60 million years, we gave him his place of honor without disturbance.

Turtles are the oldest living group of reptiles, dating back to the time of the earliest dinosaurs evolving in the Upper Triassic period and surviving to this day.

“Fossils dating back 200 million years show creatures on the turtle lineage that looked more like tortoises, but could not swim like turtles.” (

American Museum of Natural History’s List of Survivors:

• Turtles: Of the known species of turtles alive at the time of the dinosaurs, more than 80 percent survived.

• Frogs and Salamanders: These seemingly delicate amphibians survived the extinction that wiped out larger animals.

• Mammals: After the extinction, mammals came to dominate the land. An early relative of all primates, including humans, survived the extinction.

• Snakes and lizards: These reptiles, distant relatives of dinosaurs, survived the extinction. Although a number of snake species died out around 65 million years ago, snakes as a group survived.

• Alligators and Crocodiles: These sizable reptiles survived – even though other large reptiles did not.

• Birds: Birds are the only dinosaurs to survive the mass extinction event 65 million years ago. (

Nature provides us with an opportunity to stretch our imagination. While studying our past we grasp a brief glimpse of what it might have been like 100 million years ago. Turtles, alligators, frogs, salamanders, snakes and birds represent the relics of our past, the barometers of our future, the principles of our present, and respect for back to nature.

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