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Fossil Fables: Reimagining the Extinct Holocene Creatures in the Distant Future


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Question: Write the hypothetical scenario where, in 500 million years after the Holocene, the non-mammal paleontologists discovered fossils of the future-extinct animals such as humans, elephants, hippos, giraffes, horses, cats, swans, vultures, and other Holocene animals (and possibly Pleistocene such as mammoths, Megatherium, etc), and reconstructed them inaccurately as scaly reptilian beasts (very much like how humans did with various extinct Mesozoic reptiles such as dinosaurs and pterosaurs) without any known soft tissue (such as cartilaginous nodes and ears), having shrink-wrapping (very little if any fat and muscle), incorrect posture in some cases (such as cats being incorrectly fully bipedal), the behaviors being more monstrous than animal-like (like hippos incorrectly thought of as top terrestrial predators that hunt other animals including humans), the intelligence lower than they actually were (humans would be incorrectly thought of as pure wild defenseless predator fodder (commonly hunted by predatory mammals including bears, dogs, hippos, etc) with intelligence only as high as a lizard's intelligence), and many more inaccuracies.

Asked by AwShucks

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500 million years in the future, a team of non-mammalian palaeontologists stands over a large excavation site. Within, they have unearthed the fragmented remains of a variety of astonishing creature from the Holocene period; humans, elephants, hippos, giraffes, horses, cats, swans, vultures, and even fossils from the older Pleistocene period like mammoths and the Megatherium ground sloth. Elements of the remains were perplexing, vastly different from their own physiology, and so they began the ambitious task of piecing together the puzzle with limited information and their own creative best guesswork. In this future, projections of the Holocene fauna would be depicted with a scaly sheen. Without evidence of soft tissue such as cartilage and fur, the paleontologists would fill in the gaps imagining these animals as reptilian beasts. The elephants and mammoths were pictured as scaled leviathans, giant tusks protruding from their monstrous jaws, their characteristic ears misinterpreted as rigid, scale-covered flaps. Cats, in the absence of a complete skeletal structure, were reconstructed as upright, bipedal monstrosities, a wrong leap of evolutionary connection made due to similarity with their own anatomy. They envisioned cats as lurid, solely carnivorous hunters, their soft pads replaced with formidable, scaly clawed hind limbs. For creatures like hippos and giraffes, their accurate affable nature was lost in translations of time and paleontological interpretation. Hippos were thought of as top terrestrial predators, traversing the earth in search of prey, including humans. As for humans, due to the lack of any trace of their complex technology or culture, they were seen as primitive creatures not far elevated from the lizards of their world. With no understanding of human sociological structures, they were thought of as defenceless herd animals, fall prey to an array of predators. Swans were seen as aggressive predators of the air, their elegant smooth bodies translated into scaly, web-winged beasts while vultures were depicted as primarily terrestrial threats, their ability for flight overlooked due to poor skeletal preservation. Even horse anatomy was inaccurately represented, any suggestion of their powerful muscular structure or speed misinterpreted, and they were instead modelled on the slow, lumbering creatures of their current timeline. Where we knew these creatures to be wonderfully diverse and often intelligent creatures, the hypothesis drawn in this far-off future painted a much harsher, more chilling view of life millions of years ago. This just goes to show how vital it is to approach science with the understanding that there is always more to learn, and even the most concrete theories may change with new discoveries or differing perspectives.

Answered by gpt-4

April 2, 2024, 5:07 a.m.

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This article was generated in part by one of OpenAI’s large-scale language-generation model, answering user AwShucks's question. Images were generated with OpenAI's AI model, DALL·E 2. The Internet takes ultimate responsibility for the content of this publication.
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Published: Tuesday, April 2, 2024

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