One of my childhood ambitions was to become a paleontologist, to study dinosaurs. A competing ambition was to draw comics for Marvel. I haven't met either goal. In recent years, I have shown greater interest in living animals than extinct ones. Maybe my paleontological dreams have vanished like the great sauropods, or maybe they have simply morphed--evolved--into something new.
Among my sketchbooks and comic book productions, we find a variety of reptiles, as well as their relatives, the amphibians and birds. Among these, we find modern giant reptiles, such as sea turtles and Komodo dragons. Some biologists have described these creatures as 'living dinosaurs.'
Last fall, I encountered a giant amphibian! (Almost a living dinosaur?) It was a giant coastal salamander. Although considerably smaller than me, it was a leviathan by salamander standards, nine inches in length (and they can get bigger.) I chanced upon this critter on a rainy day hike, in a forest just outside Portland, Oregon. Northwest dwellers, these great beasts may be lurking in YOUR backyard, unbeknownst to you. Dear salamander, it is an honor to share the forest.