The other day, I was working on a manuscript while listening to the radio, and my hands paused for a moment when I heard the radio host say, "I wonder what kind of feelings the very last dinosaur had before they went extinct."
A paleontologist specializing in dinosaurs at a university was appearing as a guest and spoke about their latest findings. As a fan of dinosaurs, I was having fun listening to the scholar share information, like, "It's now well known that dinosaurs are similar to birds, and lately the boundary between the two has gradually become fuzzy," while working at my computer.
The topic soon shifted to the extinction of the dinosaurs 66 million years ago. The question of why dinosaurs, who had dominated the Earth, went extinct is a huge puzzle for biology. The most prominent theory is that the climate changed drastically after an asteroid hit the planet, but there are other hypotheses as well.
As the conversation progressed along these lines, the radio host posed "the feelings of the last dinosaur" question. As I had never thought of this before, I was a bit taken aback. And then, I couldn't help but imagine, "The dinosaur couldn't have known that it was the very last one. But what if it had?"
Even when it took a look around, there would have been no creatures similar to itself in sight. Where did everybody go? What will become of me? Had the very last dinosaur thought such things, how lonely and hopeless it must have been.
Come to think of it, many creatures other than dinosaurs have gone extinct on Earth. The "very last one alive" must have existed for any of these species. Even if they hadn't known that they were the last, they surely did not have any partners or offspring, or groups to be a part of. Each of them must have been troubled and worried.
A Japanese-owned ship recently ran aground off the coast of Mauritius in the Indian Ocean, and it is leaking heavy oil over a wide area. Many animals under threat of extinction live in these waters, and there are serious worries over the impact of the accident, according to an environment protection organization.
The investigation into the cause of the accident and discussions on preventing a recurrence will commence down the road, but I do not want there to be yet another "very last one," and see them disappear too. Of course, we human beings must also protect the environment, battle epidemics, and prevent wars to avoid a situation where one of us becomes the "last one alive."
Such were my thoughts on this summer evening while tuning into the show on dinosaurs, which was supposed to be just for fun.
(By Rika Kayama, psychiatrist)