This article is from
Creation 39(1):30–33, January 2017

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Creation for Kids

© CMICartoon of a classroom

Monsters of the sea and sky

by and Lita Sanders (nee Cosner)

Published in Creation 39(1):31–32, 2017

Isabel and Wesley were busy putting the final touches on their robots for the school science contest. “Mine is a flying pterosaur! It’ll win for sure!”

“No, mine will win!” Wesley said. “I spent forever making sure my plesiosaur robot has waterproof skin so it can really swim! Dad, who do you think has the best dinosaur?”

“Well, neither of you!” He laughed at their puzzled expressions. “Pterosaurs and plesiosaurs weren’t dinosaurs. They were different groups of reptiles.”

What is the difference between these creatures?

Dinosaurs are a group of extinct land reptiles, which means they would have been created by God on Day 6 of Creation Week along with man. Pterosaurs were flying reptiles, and plesiosaurs were one type of swimming reptile. Both would have been created by God on Day 5, with other flying and swimming creatures.

⛏ Dig deeper: Genesis 1:20–23

What about other extinct sea monsters?

Pliosaurs were reptiles that looked sort of like plesiosaurs, but with shorter necks, and massive heads. Mosasaurs were very powerful swimmers, and looked more like whales, even though they were reptiles like the others. Ichthyosaurs look more like a reptile version of a dolphin.

Another really interesting sea creature is Megalodon. It was probably the same created kind as a great white shark, but grew to be fifteen to eighteen metres (sixty feet) long! The word megalodon means ‘big tooth’ and you wouldn’t want to run into one of them while surfing!

How did all of these animals go extinct?

The Flood in Noah’s day was a huge catastrophe that began in the ocean, when “the fountains of the great deep burst forth” (Genesis 7:11). That’s why most fossils are of marine creatures. Because the Ark had only land animals, some sea creatures became extinct in the Flood. Some would not have survived the far warmer oceans after the Flood. Some larger creatures may have become extinct after the Flood because it wiped out a lot of the prey they needed.

There would also have been effects on the weather for centuries afterwards, so it’s possible that some creatures like pterosaurs were not able to survive well in the post-Flood climate during the Ice Age when temperatures were lower.

What do the names mean?

The word plesiosaur means ‘near lizard’; they looked nearer to land reptiles than to fish, compared to the ichthyosaur (‘fish lizard’). ‘Pliosaur’ means ‘more lizard’, i.e. supposedly even more reptilian looking than the plesiosaur. Like all reptiles, including sea turtles, they breathed air.

The word pterosaur means ‘winged lizard’. Pterodactyl, a type of pterosaur, means ‘winged finger’, because of the way pterosaur wings stretch from their very long fourth finger. Pterosaurs were very skillful flyers which helped them to capture their prey.

© CMIdepiction of st george and the dragon

Did Noah take pterosaurs and plesiosaurs on the Ark?

Noah had to take two of every kind of land animal on the Ark. This would have included the flying pterosaurs, although we don’t know how many kinds of pterosaurs there were. Plesiosaurs were ocean-dwelling, so wouldn’t have been on the Ark because Noah only took land animals.

⛏ Dig deeper: Genesis 6:20

Is there any evidence that people encountered these creatures?

People in various places have drawn pictures and written about dragons, and sometimes they are described as winged, or as water-dwelling. In these cases, they may very well have been talking about pterosaurs or plesiosaurs. But it’s likely that they never flourished in the post-Flood world, which is why they seem to have been rare. The book of Job even refers to a mighty sea-creature called Leviathan. We are not sure what type of creature this was, but we know it lived in the water and it sure was tough!

⛏ Dig deeper: Job 41:1-8, Psalm 104:26 & Isaiah 27:1

How big were they?

Like most kinds of creatures, there were smaller and larger pterosaurs and plesiosaurs. The smallest pterosaurs were the size of an average bird, while the Quetzalcoatlus had a wingspan of over 10 metres (33 feet). The smallest plesiosaurs were about the size of a person, while the biggest were ten times larger! It is truly amazing how much variety God has created!

© CMIclassroom

Could we find pterosaurs and plesiosaurs today?

The ocean is hard for humans to explore, and as we figure out how to access new areas, scientists are discovering new species all the time, even species thought to have gone extinct a long time ago. However, plesiosaurs breathe air, so they would need to surface and we probably would have seen them by now, if they were still alive. And it would be even less likely to find pterosaurs, since someone should have found evidence for them if they are still alive.

What about other creatures thought to be extinct?

While plesiosaurs and pterosaurs are probably extinct, some creatures thought to be mythical or extinct have been found alive and well in the oceans. Sailors used to talk about the Kraken as a huge squid-like creature that fought whales, and it was thought to be a legend. But then scientists found that giant squid are real, living creatures; it’s just that they live so deep in the ocean that humans don’t normally come across them. The coelacanth is a fish that was thought to have gone extinct ‘millions of years’ ago, like the dinosaurs, but about 80 years ago it was discovered alive.

“Not fair! I want a robot too!” Simon chimed in. “Don’t worry”, said Isabel, “We’ll help you with yours.”

Simon replied, “I want to make mine an Apatosaurus, that way I’ll have the best and only dinosaur!”

Posted on homepage: 29 May 2024

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