The Bravest Little Millipede
The purpose behind the story
I decided to share my fascination of fossils along with a few samples from my collection in a nontraditional style. I have written a short story using them as the main characters. It includes the names and living descriptions of my fossils as well as the flora and climate during their liftime. As I wrote the story with the purpose to inform and inspire, it transpired into something more meaningful that everyone can determine for themselves. I hope you enjoy it as much as I have enjoyed writing it! By the way, I don't have a millipede fossil as part of my collection, they are quite rare. I wish I did as there is evidence they truly were the first creatures to crawl out of the swamps onto land.
The Story of the Bravest Little Millipede
There once was a little millipede who was the bravest of all millipedes. He lived during an amazing era on Earth, best known for its explosion of life. I’m referring to the Devonian time period which was so full of new life, it has been called the Age of Fish, Age of Forests, Age of Vertebrates and Age of Amphibians; just to name a few. It all began, if you can imagine, over 400 million years ago. We humans have made many discoveries of the Devonian lifetime through the study of its fossil remains. Nevertheless, there is much more we can learn from the bravest little millipede that once lived way back when.
One day, the bravest little millipede was fed up with the attacks imposed upon his species by the many varieties of sea dwellers sharing his beloved habitat. To you and me; his enemies would be fascinating creatures to simply observe. To him; because of his meager size, they were all beasts. His plight would be the sadness he felt when he observed his millimates being taken down by their foes. When that happened, he was left helpless to only scamper under the sandy seafloor with the use of his multiple legs. The most frightening threat came from the clamping claws of the eurypterid sea scorpions. They were his species most enormous enemy and most ill-tempered. In his mind, it was a cruel twist of nature to be betrayed by cousin arthropods.
Almost as horrible to his kind were the arthropod trilobites. Even though most of them were gentle creatures, a few of their species had adapted predator capabilities, like that of a raptor bird. They were skilled swimmers obtaining speed and sharp vision. The harmless millipedes were regular prey for those types. All the ancient ocean beings referred to them as the "lens-faces" because their superior vision. Their eyes possessed multiple lenses which wrapped around the side of their heads. It allowed them to view their environment with amazing surround vision. Whenever a prowling trilobite spied an unsuspecting millipede, it seldom had ample quickness to escape. The millipedes were simple seafloor dwellers. They spent much of their day milling around to feed on decaying matter. They were near the bottom of the food chain and never a threat to others. Many of the trilobites occupied the same ocean parallel and posed a regular hazard to them.
Yet another more random threat came from the cephalopods. They possessed large powerful tentacles and the biggest brains of all ocean creatures. First, there existed the orthoceras cephalopods featured with especially long straight shells. With the use of their muscular tentacles they could crush the hard exoskeleton shells of other animals. They could pluck most anything out from the water world with much accuracy. No animal was safe from them so long as it was within their grasp. Later, their cousin ammonites came along. They had adapted a coiled shell and eventually dominated the ancient seas over their close relative orthoceras. From the little millipede’s perspective, they were all a nasty sort. From a human's perspective, their fossil shells are most intriguing. They possess inner chambers of beautiful patterns and are even worn as jewelry with symbolic meaning.
All the bravest little millipede ever wanted to do was to carry out his role in the ancient marine ecosystem alongside his millimates. They did a good job of keeping the ocean floor clean. With the arrival of more and more newcomer ocean organisms bursting with yet more new ocean life, he felt his kind would soon be extinguished.
His view of all these animals was as terrible nuisances; even though they shared a common trait of lacking a backbone. In other words, like himself, they were mostly invertebrates. He had never known of anything else. That is until the day the vertebrates appeared. The vertebrates were swift and agile, but worst of all, they were hungry for millipedes. Arriving first were the ostracoderm fish with sleek, slippery bodies possessing heavy armored plates layered over their upper torsos. The magnificent placoderms evolved thereafter. They wore interesting patterned plates and a wide variation of lavish fins and spikes for added protection. Not only were they a marvel of nature, they were awesome predators as well. Unlike the ostracoderms, they had adapted jawbones and blades for teeth, some of impressive size. Dunkleoteus was the T-Rex placoderm of the Devonian seas which had the ability to chomp down on any living creature in its time!
The little millipede was beside himself and searched deep inside his soul for a solution to his problem. He consulted with his millimates one by one. He arranged for a millisummit to convene a meeting of the milliminds. They brainstormed and discussed and debated for hours on end until finally they all agreed on a split decision. The majority of the million millipedes would remain in the ocean trenches and protect one another by using the millibuddy system. That was the beginning of millimarriages. The bravest little millipede was to lead a group out from the ocean waters and become the first creatures to ever explore land. Such a prospect was unheard of, but the bravest little millipede was no ordinary creature. Instinctively, his followers believed in his bravery and intelligence.
The day finally arrived for them to venture out from their familiar water world. The wise little millipede chose a location offshore which curved into a cool calm lagoon. It passed beyond the foamy breakwaters of the Rheic Ocean bordering the great continent of Gondwana. The bravest little millipede was first to pop out of the water and gaze his eyes upon the Devonian landscape. He took in his first breath of air, adapting the use of his special tube openings. The air was untarnished and crisp, with an aroma of prolific leaves mixed with a marvelous scent of decaying organic material. It wet his appetite briefly until his eyes were steered higher and higher along the trunk of an Archeopteris tree. Through the treetop canopy he witnessed a light more powerful and brighter than he ever knew possible. He was captured momentarily by the shimmering streaks of light filtering through the branches.
He suddenly snapped out of his daze and focused on his mission to crawl out of the water and onto the shore. He proceeded to lead the millitroops first steps onto dry land. To their surprise, the ground was quite moist from the hothouse climate which recycled warm moist air on a continual basis and dripped it back to Earth. None of the millitroops knew quite what to expect from this new habitat. They all scurried into the underbrush for protection, all but the bravest one. He had set his sights up above, fascinated by the giant trees, some of which reached thirty meters into the sky. Archeopteris dominated the forest and provided shade that protected the pioneer millipedes from the heat and intense ultraviolet rays of the sun. Other midsize trees such as Medullosa and Psaronius sealed the shady environment; and ancient lycopod trees hovered near water pools. There was a first forest thick with frond trees, wispy shrubs, spreading mosses, ferns and spiny herbaceous plants. It provided plenty of decaying nourishment for all the millipedes to eat and eat and eat. The bravest little millipede did just that and grew strong and healthy. The efforts and risks he had taken finally rewarded him and his millimates with the happiness they so desperately sought to achieve.
Then one day, he looked up again at the light shining through the trees. His curiosity to know where it came from led him on another exploration. He decided to crawl up the bumpy trunk of Archeopteris to get closer to the light. Inch my inch he crept gripping the coarse wood with his one hundred legs. When he reached the top he never felt so alive. He thought the sky was the color of love. The light source made his heart beat with trepidation. As he looked down and out, the sprawl of the forest canopy reflected the color of his soul as far as his view allowed. He was glad he made the strenuous crawl up the giant tree and came to understand its lure.
Days past, weeks and months; life was good for him and his millimates. There was plenty of oxygen in the air, plenty of nourishment on the ground and the absence of predators was the bonus he had longed for. Everyday of his life he climbed the giant Archeopteris tree to thank the powers that be. What began as the bravest little millipede’s original thoughts turned into words that transformed into action which ultimately created a new life for him and his kind! Ironically, of all the creatures that threatened his species very existence; his has survived the longest!
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- Fossil Lady
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