November 21, 2023
Want to know what kind of dinosaur roamed around your backyard eons ago? Short of hopping into a time machine, check out a fun interactive website that features a 3D view of Earth—as well as the option to see what the planet looked like during pivotal snapshots between 750 million years ago and the present, reports Futurism.
The site—dubbed Ancient Earth and developed by Discord Senior Engineering Manager Ian Webster—also gives you the option to plug in any town or city and plot it back to its location at any given time, plus nearby fossils.
As an example, if you plug in New York City and travel back to 750 million years ago, the map takes you to the Cryogenian Period, a time when some scientists think the planet was mostly covered with glaciers. A red dot will pinpoint the relative location of the city, which was once located in the approximate middle of the supercontinent Rodinia—a mashup of most of the Earth’s land mass.
For New York City, for instance, the site explains that fossils found in the vicinity include the biped dinosaur Grallator, from the Cretaceous Period; and the Pteranodon, a winged monster from the Late Cretaceous.
You can also “travel” to notable firsts in the planet’s history—such as the appearance of the first green algae, the first insects, or the first dinosaurs.
Webster developed the interactive globe for the The Dinosaur Database, billed as the “Internet’s largest dinosaur database,” back in 2018; and based it on GPlates, software, which enables users to manipulate the planet’s plate tectonics through various time periods.
“I’m amazed that geologists collected enough data to actually plot my home 750M years ago,” Webster said when he first released the website to the public.
What’s just as amazing, besides the interactivity, is that the website teaches us that humans take up an infinitesimal slice of geological time—which puts everything in perspective.
Research contact: @futurism