1747: Spider Paleontology
Title text: Whenever you see a video of birds doing something weird, remember: Birds are a small subset of dinosaurs, so the weirdness of birds is a small subset of the weirdness of dinosaurs.
A time-traveller (the sphere-like thing) visits us/the present from the far future. Spiders are their current craze, much as dinosaurs are currently to us. The time-traveller immediately spots a spider, awestruck to see the object of its obsession in the living flesh. Since spider webs don't fossilize, the time-traveller is surprised to see the spider in a web. There was no possible hint of spiderwebs in the fossil record, from which the time-traveller gathered all its knowledge.
We, with our current knowledge, know that webs are an essential part of a spiders life. Making sense of a spiders life is practically impossible without including their webs. However, the future-people have done so until now; discovering how wrong they are is bound to become an intense experience for them.
Megan immediately connects the time-travellers realisation to our current understanding of dinosaurs: If future-people think they understand spiders, while missing something as essential (but non-fossilising) as their web, what are we missing about dinosaurs? Cueball quickly catches on, and both ask if they can borrow the time-machine to have their mind blown about dinosaurs much as the time-traveller is experiencing right now about spiders.
The title text calls back to one of Randall's favorite facts (see 1211: Birds and Dinosaurs) - that birds are technically part of the clade Dinosauria. Birds do lots of weird stuff - from starlings flocking to the dances of birds of paradise to lyrebird mimicry to petrels puking stomach oil. Dinosaurs would have had equally strange behaviors, but it's basically impossible to tell from the fossil record. All we know is that they had features such as display feathers, neck frills, and crests which likely played a role in mating and territorial shows.
This is the second comic with special mentioning of a science related directly to spiders, the first being 1135: Arachnoneurology.
- [A seven-panel comic featuring Cueball, Megan, and a time-traveler from the distant future, possibly from somewhere other than Earth. The time-traveler is depicted as a solid, floating black dot surrounded by six outwardly-curved segments, surrounded by small dots. In the second panel, the depiction is slightly different.]
- [The time-traveler floats on the left facing Megan who is in the center facing left. Cueball is to Megan's right and also facing left.]
- Time-traveler: I'm here from the distant future!
- Megan: Cool! What for?
- Time-traveler: Spiders!
- [A close-up of the time-traveler, depicted as a diffuse black smudge surrounded by seven narrow rays with irregular dots between the rays.]
- Time-traveler: We've learned about your planet's spiders from fossils.
- Time-traveler: There's a whole spider craze. We have spider theme parks, spider movies, spider costumes...
- Time-traveler: Such beautiful animals!
- Megan (off-panel): I guess...
- [Back to the time-traveler, Megan and Cueball as shown before. Megan is gesturing left, past the time-traveler.]
- Time-traveler: Now we've got time travel, so I'm here to see one for myself!
- Megan: Sure! There's one over there!
- [The time-traveler floats over a leafless plant. A spider web is strung between the border of the left panel and the leafless plant. A spider is in the center of the web.]
- Time-traveler: Woowwww!
- Time-traveler: What's that giant net it's caught in?
- Megan (off-panel): You mean its web?
- Time-traveler: Its what?
- [Back to a scene similar to the first, depicting the time traveler, Megan and Cueball]
- Megan: Oh, right, fossils. So you wouldn't know about...
- [In a frame-less panel only Megan is shown facing left.]
- Megan: ...
- [Again a scene similar to the first.]
- Megan: Oh my God. Dinosaurs must have been so weird.
- Cueball: Holy crap, yeah.
- Megan: Listen, can we borrow your time machine?
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