On the Red Couch: Art Capps of Life Before the Dinosaurs

Inside Flipboard / July 29, 2011


Arthropods are cool. Or so says Art Capps, the seven-year-old behind the fascinating Life Before the Dinosaurs blog. The labor of love (he dictates the daily blog entries to his mom, Louise, who transcribes) is the result of this future paleobiologist’s distaste for dinosaurs — perhaps unusual for a boy his age. “The stuff that lived before the dinosaurs seemed like the weirdest stuff on earth to me,” he explains. Learn why Forbes’ Alex Knapp called this blog “awesome.”

1) What is your routine for writing the blog?
First, I pick my topic. I usually decide to pick a topic like nothing I’ve ever done before, because I want people to get an idea of what the variety was like in the time before the dinosaurs. I talk and my mom types what I say above each image.

2) Of all the creatures you’ve written about in your blog, which is your favorite and why?
My favorite is between Sarotrocercus, Tullimonstrum, and Opabinia, because there’s nothing else that looks anything like them.

Opabinia is a creature that looks like a stubby millipede that lives in the sea, with lobes along the side it used for swimming, no legs, a long proboscis with a toothed claw at the end, and a mouth under its head that looked like a pineapple ring with teeth inside of it. He also has five eyes and a v-shaped tail made of lobes.

Sarotrocercus looked like an upside-down pillbug that swam in mid-water and breathed with book gills, which are external gills that look like books. Sarotrocercus had two big eyes on stalks, two feeding arms next to the eyes, and a long spike at the back with a clump of spines at the end.

Tullimonstrum looked like a big, fat earthworm with a paddle at the end, a bar through its head with sensory organs, and a long proboscis with a claw that had eight teeth.

3) What else are you into, besides arthropods?
I like lobopods, which are walking-worm ancestors of arthropods, and they are extinct. I do like early fish a lot, especially the placoderms and agnathans. Agnathans are jawless fish with no armor. Placoderms are armor-headed fish that can be jawless or jawed. And I really do like mollusks, like snails, slugs, and nautiloids. I also love cats.

4) Who are your heroes?
I really do like Charles Doolittle Walcott. He discovered a lot of amazing creatures in the Burgess Shale. I have a picture of him on our refrigerator.

5) Have you read your blog on Flipboard? If so, what do you think?
I have, and I really like it. It’s really cool because it looks kind of like a book. Instead of scrolling through the blog you flip the “pages,” and every time you flip it, you get three interesting creatures that you can touch and find all the information about them.

(Transcribed by his mother)

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