October 5, 2011
The stretch of Highway 40 that cuts through downtown Vernal, Utah is dotted with dinosaurs. Many of them take the form of Dinah, the town’s pink sauropod mascot. Of the many incarnations of the cartoon, one stands out as my favorite.
Right along the eastbound side of the road there is a version of Dinah in a polka dot bikini, and the platform she stands on exclaims “Let’s swim!” The sign makes me smile every time. Forgetting for a moment exactly why a dinosaur would need a swimsuit—and a bikini at that!—the sign was made during a time when the massive sauropod dinosaurs were thought to spend most of their time in the water. They didn’t so much swim as wallow in all those restorations, but having a “Brontosaurus” encourage tourists to go for a swim was fitting. We now know differently. Sauropods were not only dedicated land-lubbers, but as found by paleontologist Donald Henderson, complex air-filled pockets inside their bodies would have made them buoyant and unstable in the water. If Dinah went into the pool for a dip, she’d have an easier time just floating than swimming.
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