Like most kids, I loved dinosaurs when I was growing up. Of course, it was all much simpler back then. I can remember doing a science fair project where I whittled dinosaurs out of the biggest soap bars I could find. I had a brontosaurus, a stegosaurus and a tyrannosaurus. Way back then, those were the only dinosaurs I ever heard about.
Time passed, I grew up and had my own kids, and they loved dinosaurs, too! They knew about brontosaurus, stegosaurus and tyrannosaurus. And allosaurs, pterodons, triceratops, as well. Hey, the dinosaur age was developing more diversity!
Jurassic Park came along, and there were even more critters; raptors, spitters and who knew what.
Since then, I’ve watched lots of educational tv shows about ancient Earth, different animals that existed in the different Ages. I don’t seem to hear about brontosaurs any more, and I’m not sure stegosaurs and tyrannosaurs lived during the same age. There were feathered creatures – something like gigantic ferocious chickens – in what is now the Gobi desert of China. There were giant reptiles and midgets, and all shapes and sizes in between. There were insects and other crawley things, including the first mammals, which apparently lived underground and looked like a cross between a mouse and a lemur.
In fact, I’m beginning to think there were a lot of critters during the various Ages that we’ve not heard about yet, might never hear about. Just as there are millions of different kinds of critters on the Earth these days, there not just kind of critters in past ages.
So if you are writing about an alien planet, you have to give some thought to the various animals that inhabit it. Some will eat whatever passes for plants, and others will eat the plant-eating animals. There will be big animals and tiny critters. Visiting humans might fear being stomped or eaten by the big animals, when they should really worry about the insects tromping all over their beds.
And that’s just on the land.