Lost History Ancient History Dragons of the Air

Dragons of the Air

Dragons of the Air
Catalog # SKU3652
Publisher TGS Publishing
Weight 2.00 lbs
Author Name H. G. Seeley
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Dragons of the Air

An Account of Extinct Flying Reptiles

"I Am A Brother of Dragons"
Job xxx. 29

H. G. Seeley

The history of life on the earth during the epochs of geological time unfolds no more wonderful discovery among types of animals which have become extinct than the family of fossils known as flying reptiles. Its coming into existence, its structure, and passing away from the living world are among the great mysteries of Nature.

Larger Print, 15 point font, Eighty Illustrations



The animals are astonishing in their plan of construction. In aspect they are unlike birds and beasts which, in this age, hover over land and sea. They gather into themselves in the body of a single individual, structures which, at the present day, are among the most distinctive characters of certain mammals, birds, and reptiles.

The name "flying reptile" expresses this anomaly. Its invention is due to the genius of the great French naturalist Cuvier, who was the first to realise that this extinct animal, entombed in slabs of stone, is one of the wonders of the world.

The word "reptile" has impressed the imagination with unpleasant sound, even when the habits of the animals it indicates are unknown. It is familiarly associated with life which is reputed venomous, and is creeping and cold. Its common type, the serpent, in many parts of the world takes a yearly toll of victims from man and beast, and has become the representative of silent, active strength, dreaded craft, and danger.

Science uses the word "reptile" in a more exact way, to define the assemblage of cold-blooded animals which in familiar description are separately named serpents, lizards, turtles, hatteria, and crocodiles.

Turtles and the rest of them survive from great geological antiquity. They present from age to age diversity of aspect and habit, and in unexpected differences of outward proportion of the body show how the laws of life have preserved each animal type. For the vital organs which constitute each animal a reptile, and the distinctive bony structures with which they are associated, remain unaffected, or but little modified, by the animal's external change in appearance.

The creeping reptile is commonly imagined as the antithesis of the bird. For the bird overcomes the forces that hold even man to the earth, and enjoys exalted aerial conditions of life. Therefore the marvel is shared equally by learned and unlearned, that the power of flight should have been an endowment of animals sprung from the breed of serpents, or crocodiles, enabling them to move through the air as though they too were of a heaven-born race. The wonder would not be lessened if the animal were a degraded representative of a nobler type, or if it should be demonstrated that even beasts have advanced in the battle of life. The winged reptile, when compared with a bird, is not less astounding than the poetic conceptions in Milton's Paradise Lost of degradation which overtakes life that once was amongst the highest. And on the other hand, from the point of view of the teaching of Darwin in the theories of modern science, we are led to ask whether a flying reptile may not be evidence of the physical exaltation which raises animals in the scale of organisation. The dominance upon the earth of flying reptiles during the great middle period of geological history will long engage the interest of those who can realise the complexity of its structure, or care to unravel the meaning of the procession of animal forms in successive geological ages which preceded the coming of man.

The outer vesture of an animal counts for little in estimating the value of ties which bind orders of animals together, which are included in the larger classes of life. The kindred relationship which makes the snake of the same class as the tortoise is determined by the soft vital organs-brain, heart, lungs-which are the essentials of an animal's existence and control its way of life. The wonder which science weaves into the meaning of the word "reptile," "bird," or "mammal," is partly in exhibiting minor changes of character in those organs and other soft parts, but far more in showing that while they endure unchanged, the hard parts of the skeleton are modified in many ways. For the bones of the reptile orders stretch their affinities in one direction towards the skeletons of salamanders and fishes; and extend them also at the same time in other directions, towards birds and mammals. This mystery we may hope to partly unravel.

224 pages - 8½ x 11 softcover

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