"Well, there's not much we can do right now but enjoy the ride," Mimi said. She sat up, looked out and was spellbound by the sights and sounds of the landscape slowly passing beneath them.
A grove of palm trees shadowed an undergrowth of bushy shrubs and thick ferns; birds chirped and fluttered from branch to branch; a family of plesiadapis — ancient primates — scampered up and down the tree trunks, chattering to each other just like squirrels; a narrow stream tumbled over rocks and then spread out to form a shallow pool. A champsosaur lay almost hidden in the grass and mud. The small crocodile-like creature opened its long, thin snout with a hiss, startling several tiny horses drinking at the edge of the pool. "Barry, look. Those horses aren't any bigger than dogs!"
Barry looked at the diminutive creatures and started to smile, but just at that moment a strange voice said, "Welcome to Prehistoria," and he almost jumped out of his skin.
Mimi pointed to a speaker, "It's the automated guide. It must be a recording." Next to the speaker were small drawings of animals, each with a button next to it.
The voice continued, "Prehistoria is what the earth was like during the Cenozoic Era after the dinosaurs became extinct, sixty-five million years ago-the time when mammals became the dominant life on our planet. The Cenozoic Era is divided into geological epochs called the Paleocene, Eocene, Oligocene, Miocene, Pliocene and Pleistocene."
"What epoch are we living in?" Barry wondered out loud.
As though it had heard him, the guide continued, "We're living during the Holocene—or 'recent'— epoch of geological time. For the rest of this tour, when you want information about different animals, please push the button next to the animal's picture. And we hope you e-e-enjoy your r-ride." The tape recording finished in an electronic stammer.
"Gee, I hope they get that fixed," Mimi said as she pushed the button next to the picture of the tiny horses. The guide immediately answered, "Hyracotherium—also known as eohippus, or 'dawn horse'—was the earliest known horse. It lived during the Eocene Epoch, more than fifty million years ago, and instead of hooves it had toes to enable it to walk on soft forest ground."