Chapter Four: Alankylosaurus
Hybrid Genome: Alanqa base, Ankylosaurus spliced in.
Size: 18 feet tall, 53 foot wingspan, 750 pounds.
Alan Grant eyed the enormous Jurassic World Aviary with a wary gaze. The last time he’d been close to a building like this, well…that hadn’t gone so well.
This one was in better condition and he wasn’t being chased by a bastardized Spinosaurus, so he supposed that was an improvement on the Sorna bird cage.
A familiar face waited for him just on the inside of the building and the old man made a half-grin, half-grimace to his colleague and former student. “Billy.”
“Hey, doc,” Billy Brennan grinned back and shook his hand. “Been a while. Can’t believe you actually came.”
“Masrani was very…persuasive,” the old Paleontologist shrugged. “It seems like they’re doing a better job taking the animals seriously than Hammond’s people did. But on the off-chance everything goes to hell while I’m here, I’ve got a distress flare with me to send the T-Rex away.”
Billy laughed and gave his former mentor a playful smack on the shoulder. “Well come on, let me show you around. We’ll stay away from the nippy ones.”
“That’d be preferable.”
Fortunately, the Aviary had elevators to carry them up through the different levels, allowing Grant’s knees a bit of a respite as they watched the various Pterosaur species go about their business. It was an excellent environment Jurassic World had designed for them—the dome was built on a cliffside that gave the animals room to fly, roost, and hunt the various prey items that were set loose into their habitat. The species were divided based on their compatibility, as well; Pteranodons roosted with the smaller, but more aggressive Dimorphodons, who coexisted and fed on different types of fish.
Grant was feeling better about the whole thing the more he saw it—Masrani had added caution and wisdom to John’s old saying of “spare no expense”. He ensured the animals were given the proper care and respect, careful to give the creatures brought back from extinction everything they needed to thrive. It was no secret that Jurassic World spent ludicrous amounts of money and resources on their animals, but Grant could see it was all worth it.
This was everything John Hammond had dreamed of and everything Grant had wished to see from the old park, he thought to himself as he watched a Dsungaripterus skim across a large lake on the eastern side of the Aviary and swoop up with a small fish.
“What do you think?” Billy asked anxiously. He knew full well his mentor hadn’t wanted to be near prehistoric life after his last encounters with it, but Grant looked satisfied by everything he was seeing.
“It’s not bad,” was his answer, and Billy grinned upon hearing it. The gruff Paleontologist might as well have smiled from ear-to-ear.
Grant frowned then. “Why the Aviary, Billy?”
His former student knew what Grant was really asking—why Billy had chosen to work here of all places when he’d almost been killed by Pterosaurs on Isla Sorna years ago.
Billy only shrugged and grinned sheepishly. “I figured the best way to get over what happened was to work with the creatures that put me through that way back when.”
“Your sense of self-preservation is astonishingly lacking.”
Billy laughed uproariously and Grant just rolled his eyes.
“I want to show you something special,” Billy told him suddenly, leading him into an area deemed strictly for employees—of which Billy was one. “It’s a new attraction we haven’t unveiled to the public yet, but I’m in charge of him and I think you’ll like it.”
Grant gave him a wary look. “I’m not a big fan of surprises.”
“He’s big, but I think you’ll like him,” Billy promised. “He’s not nippy.”
He led the Paleontologist to a closed-off section of the Aviary near the base of the dome and to a door that led into the enclosure. Grant paused as Billy unlocked it. “Billy.”
“It’s okay doc, really,” Billy assured him. “He’s not carnivorous. He just likes attention.”
“What kind of attention?”
“The good kind,” he said, then pursed his lips. “If it makes you feel better, you can stay here by the door. He won’t view you as food or a threat, but you’ll be safe there if you decide you’re too close.”
Grant scowled. “You’re not giving this animal enough credit. Haven’t I warned you enough to be careful around these things? Don’t slack off now around one that’s gentle just to impress me.”
“It’s not that,” Billy shook his head sincerely, then opened the door. Grant warily stood in the doorway as his former student walked into the huge habitat and let out a sharp whistle.
The screech that replied was powerful enough to send a shiver through Grant, and then he saw it.
It was a giant, a titan, a leviathan of a pterosaur. The creature had seemingly just launched itself off the cliffside above them and extended violet-and-red wings that were longer than a bus, gliding in a lazy circle over a river to loop towards them. Grant thought for a second he was looking at a Quetzalcoatlus or perhaps Hatzygopterus, but quickly realized the Pterosaur was too big even for them.
The creature swooped towards them, body curving forward to land on short, muscular legs. It flapped its wings twice in quick succession to regain its balance, then folded the wings to walk on the clawed joints. The force of the wind it unleashed upon them had Grant gripping the door frame to avoid stumbling.
Even on the ground, it towered over them. Christ on his golden throne, it was as tall as a giraffe or even taller. The thick, yellow beak was seven feet and shaped like a lance, perfect for piercing. Small, but sharp golden eyes looked down on them as the creature bent that elongated neck to get a better look.
“Hey, Rodan,” Billy smiled, lifting a hand to touch the underside of the huge beak. “Sleep good?”
A deep sound between a screech and a chitter was the response as the animal leaned her head to the side slightly, helping Billy guide his hands to her favorite spots that were in most need of scratches.
The sarcastic response he had for the animal’s name was put on pause as Grant stared at the Pterosaur with a deep frown. He didn’t recognize this behemoth of any species. The size was too much unless it was a known Pterosaur the labs had scaled up, but then it lacked the ornamental crests of even the giant species he was familiar with. Moreover, the creatures shoulders bore thick scales that were almost like scutes, and the muscles and bones were obviously stronger than any Pterosaur he’d ever seen.
“He’s a hybrid,” Billy said, confirming his mentor’s growing suspicions. “Alankylosaurus. Alanqa base, but they bumped up his size to handle the extra weight from the Ankylosaur traits.”
“They gave him armored scales?” Grant’s frown grew deeper somehow. “For what purpose?”
“Wu said he was a theoretical species based on Hatzegopterus,” Billy told him. “It’s mostly accepted it spent a lot of time on the ground, right? Hunting pygmy dinosaurs on those tiny islands. Well, his theory is that if Hatzygopterus ever grew to be more terrestrial, its body would have had to be better suited to defending itself from land-based predators.”
“Why not make the base Hatzygopterus, then?”
Billy shrugged, but smiled as the hybrid bent lower still, twisting its head to let him scratch the scales just below his eye. “Compatibility issues, I think. He didn’t tell me much. But the idea is he’s a mostly-terrestrial Pterosaur that’s evolving towards an herbivorous lifestyle.”
Grant’s eyebrows shot up. “He’s an herbivore?”
“Omnivore, but he only likes to eat small fish and lizards,” Billy assured him. “He prefers plant matter and fruits. He loves grapefruits, actually.”
The Paleontologist chewed on his lip as he studied the behemoth Pterosaur. That wasn’t entirely impossible theoretically—for a giant species like this to evolve into a more terrestrial animal to take advantage of a new food source. His giant size would have allowed him to feed on plant matter in one area before gliding off to a different one. His flight was no doubt restricted based on the weather—no animal this size would be using powered flight very much, but the potential was there. At least it wasn’t a mad scientist’s creation that could breathe fire or something.
Speaking of which…
“He looks like a dragon.”
Billy laughed uproariously at his mentor’s dry comment. Rodan gave a shriek and eyed the Paleontologist with a dirty look for distracting his caretaker.
Grant decided to stay in the doorway, especially when Billy tossed the hybrid a large coconut and watched Rodan crush the tough shell with that powerful beak. Gentle giant or not, he had a better sense of self-preservation than his wayward student.