Tetrapod Zoology

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Maybe it’s because I write too much, but I am frequently surprised and sometimes a little freaked out at the strange coincidences that have so often cropped up during my time here at Tet Zoo. Long-time readers will recall the several occasions when we’ve looked at hypothetical intelligent dinosaurs: it started back in 2006 with my contention that ground hornbills (bucorvids) should be regarded as the dinosaurs most convergent with hominins (here). Humanoid dinosaurs like Dale Russell’s hypothetical big-brained troodontid – the ‘dinosauroid’ – are (in my opinion) utterly unrealistic, relying more on the notion that humans are the bestest animals ever, rather than on what we might really infer from dinosaur evolution. Inspired by all of this, my good friend Nemo Ramjet (blog here) designed a new-look dinosauroid, the bucorvid-like post-Cretaceous deinonychosaur Avisapiens saurotheos (here). Nemo went on to create a culture and society for Avisapiens, with cave art and everything (here)…

Perhaps partly because of this – but partly because of coincidence – two new articles have recently appeared on big-brained hypothetical dinosaurs. The first was by Jeff Hecht: Jeff is best known in the zoological world for the reporting he does in New Scientist on new palaeontological discoveries, but he’s best known globally (so I understand) for his writing on lasers and fibre optics. Jeff’s new article (Hecht 2007) highlights the fact that, 25 years on, palaeontologists are still interested in the thought experiment initiated by Russell & Séguin (1982), but think that ‘Russell’s dinosauroid needs updating’.

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Jeff spoke to theropod expert Tom Holtz, who is quoted as saying that the dinosauroid looks too human, and that – if troodontids were to evolve primate-like braininess – they would retain the long tail and horizontal body posture common to theropods (Hecht 2007). This might sound familiar, because it’s the same argument I used when writing about dinosauroids at Tet Zoo. I’m not implying there that Tom stole my idea: he probably thought these thoughts before I did. I’m also quoted in the article, again making the point that, if theropods were to evolve big brains and sentience, there is no reason other than anthropocentrism to think that they might resemble us physically. Exhibit A: parrots.

Ah, Simon Conway Morris would be proud :)

A second article, this time on the subject of brain size and intelligence in dinosaurs, appeared in a 2008 issue of the Czech magazine Sv?t. The article, by Vladimír Socha (and written in Czech of course), includes a discussion of hypothetical intelligent dinosaurs [this section shown below], and what will interest Tet Zoo readers in particular is its reference to Nemo’s Avisapiens. This is the first time Avisapiens has appeared in print if, that is, you don’t count Nemo’s portfolio (available here).

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McLoughlin’s Bioparaptor

In another curious and totally unconnected coincidence, Tet Zoo regular Steve Bodio (of Querencia) recently sent me a copy of an article that I was totally unaware of: John C. McLoughlin’s ‘Evolutionary bioparanoia’, published in Animal Kingdom magazine in 1984. Most of you will know of John because of his 1979 book Archosauria: A New Look at the Old Dinosaur (less well known is its 1980 follow-up Synapsida: A New Look into the Origin of Mammals). Written back when everyone was getting all excited about Robert Bakker’s dynamic, hot-blooded view of the dinosaurian world, Archosauria was one of the first works to visualise dinosaurs as active, alert animals with boldly patterned, sometimes feathery, bodies. John depicted his dinosaurs chasing, trotting and foraging, and many were much-copied by other artists and proved highly influential (many of the dinosaurs in David Lambert’s 1983 Collins Guide to Dinosaurs, for example, are copied from those that appeared in Archosauria).

John’s 1984 article describes his contemplation of a new psychiatric disorder he recognises in himself: evolutionary bioparanoia. It is ‘an acute, often immobilizing sense of dread generated by fatigue in persons interested in both the current state of world affairs and the evolutionary history of life on Earth’ (McLoughlin 1984, p. 25). The article begins by considering the probable short lifespan of technologically advanced societies, the (alleged) short-lived nature of anthropogenic artefacts, buildings and other constructions, and the fact that humanity’s rise to global dominance and massive impact on the global biota will be all but geologically instantaneous. John notes that, in a global biota with a horribly impoverished large animal fauna, the most abundant large non-humans animals are domesticated cattle. We imagine what non-human geologists, living in the far distant future 60 million years hence and looking back at the Holocene fossil record, will see if human society obliterated itself by way of nuclear war. A layer of unusually concentrated elements; massive erosion caused by agriculture and war; a time of massive dying.

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Here’s where the evolutionary bioparanoia kicks in. Noting that this sort of thing is, pretty much, what we see in the fossil record of the latest Late Cretaceous, John explains how comparatively big-brained maniraptorans like the dromaeosaurs might perhaps have evolved their very own sentient tool-maker: ladies and gentlemen, I give you McLoughlin’s smart tool-making maniraptoran, yet another hypothetical big-brained sentient theropod. He doesn’t name it, but I’m going to call it Bioparaptor macloughlini (bioparanoia + raptor, ‘macloughlini’ isn’t a typo: the ICZN recommends that ‘Mc’ spellings become ‘mac-’ names).

Depicted as a swell-headed deinonychosaur that wears jewellery and has invented nuclear weapons, Bioparaptor recalls Russell’s dinosauroid in having a short-jawed, big-brained skull and in having lost its pedal sickle-claw, but differs from it in being long-tailed and overall more dinosaur-like. Its nefarious activities not only resulted in a nuclear conflict that caused the end-Cretaceous event, but its domestication of herding cattle-like herbivores (Triceratops and kin) resulted in an impoverished terrestrial fauna where other big animals were rare or absent. I’m shocked that no-one has brought this to my attention earlier, and am surprised that John’s Bioparaptor hasn’t been mentioned more often. McLoughlin (1984) makes no mention of Russell’s dinosauroid (published in 1982): while I’m sure that John was aware of it, the fact that Bioparaptor looks so different implies that it ‘evolved’ convergently, the product of a different thought experiment.

Magee’s Anthroposaurus sapiens

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Moving on, here we come to the next coincidence as, while working with Jeff Liston in Glasgow’s Hunterian Museum during November 2007, I learnt that views essentially identical to those expressed by John had managed to get into the non-fictional literature elsewhere, thanks to an obscure little 1993 tome by one Mike Magee, titled Who Lies Sleeping: the Dinosaur Heritage and the Extinction of Man. Thanks to Jeff, I’ve since gotten hold of this book.

It’s very weird. As in McLoughlin (1984), the main thrust here is that sentient, big-brained dromaeosaurs – Magee calls them Anthroposaurus sapiens – evolved at the end of the Late Cretaceous and, via industrial pollution and a nuclear war, caused their own extinction as well as that of many of their contemporaries. On the way, Magee stops to look at Elaine Morgan’s aquatic ape hypothesis (I’m still not sure why) and generally agrees with it, and also spends a chapter examining the evidence for evolutionary saltation and super-rapid evolution (Magee 1993). He’s a big fan of Bakker’s The Dinosaurs Heresies and Desmond’s The Hot Blooded Dinosaurs (in fact they seem to be about the only dinosaur literature he cites). It is proposed that anthroposaurs evolved from arboreal primate-like theropods and that, like the aquatic apes of Morgan’s AAH, they went through an aquatic phase and hence convergently became human-like.

As in McLoughlin (1984), it is suggested that the low-diversity ornithischian assemblage of late Maastrichtian North America reflects the fact that the smart dinosaurs maintained Triceratops and Edmontosaurus as domestic animals: ‘herded on the great plains before being shipped to a Cretaceous Chicago for making into meat pies and hamburgers’ (Magee 1993, p. 110). Anthroposaur industry resulted in the evidence for iridium concentration, acid rain, rising global temperatures and so on seen in the late Maastrichtian record, and it is suggested that some dinosaur lineages actually evolved to cope with the chronic atmospheric pollution that resulted. Here we have the explanation for the elaborate cranial crests of lambeosaurs, the convoluted nasal passages of ankylosaurids and the big nose of Altirhinus (which wasn’t Maastrichtian, but let’s not worry about that).

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The nuclear war that finished off anthroposaur society explains the evidence for global wildfires, the bits of stressed quartz and the tektites interpreted by others as evidence for asteroid impact. Mummified dinosaurs – like Sternberg’s famous Edmontosaurus from Wyoming [shown here] – surely owe their remarkable preservation to this global nuclear conflict: I think my favourite sentences in the whole book are ‘Dinosaur mummies are rare, but when found they are usually late Cretaceous hadrosaurs. Why should they have died so perfectly and been preserved? Because they died of gamma radiation and neutrons which preserved them as surely as it would preserve strawberries in a plastic bag?’ (Magee 1993, p. 148).

Equally if not more entertaining is Magee’s suggestion that the various man-like tracks reported from the Mesozoic are not the distorted genuine tracks, amorphous holes, or blatant fakes which examination has demonstrated them to be, but are instead actual anthroposaur tracks.

The book’s title refers to the idea, loosely ‘explained’ in the very last chapter, that anthroposaurs lay sleeping, though whether this is meant literally (that they are hiding under the ground) or figuratively (that they are somehow within our psyche) is never made clear. It might be both, as he writes of Typhon, Echidna, Tiamat and the serpent from the Garden of Eden as if they and other mythological semi-reptiles might be racial memories of smart dinosaurs, and of course there’s the fact (I use the term loosely) that H. P. Lovecraft had a telepathic connection with anthroposaurs, and that this explains his references to the Old Ones, the fallen city of R’lyeh, his loathing of immigrants, desertion of his attractive wife, and poekilothermic physiology. Err, yup.

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A magazine article published in 1984 and a strange book published in 1993 are not exactly news, but Hecht (2007) and Socha (2008) clearly are. For me, it has been curiously coincidental, not only that both articles appeared within the last few months, but also that I only learnt about McLoughlin (1984) and Magee (1993) within this same space of time. Clearly, this is evidence that I too am in telepathic contact with the sleeping anthroposaurs. Or, wait, maybe I am an anthroposaur. I did always pretend to be a dinosaur when I was a kid, and I do generally prefer reptiles to people.

Thanks to Steve Bodio, Jeff Hecht and Jeff Liston for instigating it all. And to see what’s happening with Russell’s dinosauroid these days, visit Michael Ryan’s article here.

Refs – -

Hecht, J. 2007. Smartasaurus. Cosmos 15, 40-41.

Magee, M. 1993. Who Lies Sleeping: the Dinosaur Heritage and the Extinction of Man. AskWhy! Publications, Frome.

McLoughlin, J. 1984. Evolutionary bioparanoia. Animal Kingdom April/May 1984, 24-30.

Russell, D. A. & Séguin, R. 1982. Reconstruction of the small Cretaceous theropod Stenonychosaurus inequalis and a hypothetical dinosauroid. Syllogeus 37, 1-43.

Socha, V. 2008. Dinosau?i: hlupáci, nebo géniové? Sv?t 3/2008, 14-16.

Comments

  1. #1 J-Dog
    March 24, 2008

    I believe that the behavior and existence of Paris Hilton also supports this theory.

    We might also consider that the picture of the anthrosauriad dressed in the red shorts and wide tie is evidence of less-than-successful mating rituals, leading to a sudden and inevitable loss of mating success, with the obvious negative results.

  2. #2 Cameron
    March 24, 2008

    I once had a very strange gentleman talk to me at length about nuclear fuel rods found in the Cretaceous and its implications. Since people with such, er, unconventional beliefs always hold them very strongly, I just sat back and listened in awe. The reptoids people also love dinosauroids (Rhodes treats Russell’s creation as fact) and if I remember a Coast to Coast show correctly they survived by living in the center of the Earth and now fly around in UFOs and impersonate republicans and the queen and so forth.

    And how dare Magee talk about Lovecraft that way!

  3. #3 Nicholas Pope
    March 24, 2008

    Fascinating. Must try and get hold a copy of the Magee book.
    But if you want dinosaur survival may I recommend the series of books by Eric Garcia – “Anonymous Rex”, “Casual Rex” and “Hot and Sweaty Rex”.

  4. #4 neil
    March 24, 2008

    The lying sleeping reminds me of an old Dr. Who I watched back when they repeated them, where they find a race of hominid reptiles which evolved from dinosaurs but went into suspended animation when they wrecked the planet. I wonder if ill get marks in my upcoming exams on a KT boundry question if I state the ‘theory’ of hominid dinosaurs destrying themselves as a possible cause!? lol

  5. #5 Thomas R. Holtz, Jr.
    March 24, 2008

    Indeed, I’ve been thinking about this a LOOOOONNNNGGGG time. In fact, my phrase “avoid the ‘roid” (itself a reference to the evil “avoid the ‘noid” Domino’s Pizza commercials of the 1980s) dates back to the late 1980s, and I quote it in this late Neoproterozoic posting on the DML here

    [from Darren: sorry for delay, the message got spam-filtered dammit]

  6. #6 Sordes
    March 24, 2008

    I remember a very interesting hypothetical animal from the great specworld-site, which looks a bit like a tree-living parrot-Oviraptor-mix. It is said to live in families similar to primates, has still functional hands and a head very similar to a parrot. I think such a creature could also work as hypothetical ancestor of hypothetical intelligent dinosaur descendents. Sadly I can´t find the animal anymore.

  7. #7 Brett Booth
    March 24, 2008

    Actually I did something like this myself. Mines more inthe vein of the movie Mimic with humans and dinosaurs living together. Of course I later read your blog about it and it was far more correct than my idea:

    http://demonpuppy.deviantart.com/art/Dinosauroid-65922950

    Love the blog!

    Best,

    Brett

  8. #8 Nemo Ramjet
    March 24, 2008

    As interesting as dinosauroids might be, they are mere amateurs next to the intelligent Gorgonopsians that annihilated all life on earth during the awful Second War of the Solar System back in the end of Permian. That war was hell on everybody…

  9. #9 Lars
    March 24, 2008

    McLoughlin wrote a science-fiction novel fleshing out his polluting, triceratops-domesticating intelligent maniraptors (Toolmaker Koan). Not a great science fiction novel per se, but he did a fine job of working out the society of these dinosaurs, far better than the alien society extrapolations typifying most science fiction. But then McLoughlin not only knows some biology, but thinks that it’s worth knowing about, unlike most sf writers and readers. Probably why his science-fiction writing career wasn’t long-lasting – he was no worse as a writer than others who keep on churning out the same crap year after wearying year, but he evinced some concern about twee topics such as ecology.

  10. #10 David Marjanovi?
    March 24, 2008

    I remember a very interesting hypothetical animal from the great specworld-site, which looks a bit like a tree-living parrot-Oviraptor-mix. It is said to live in families similar to primates, has still functional hands and a head very similar to a parrot. I think such a creature could also work as hypothetical ancestor of hypothetical intelligent dinosaur descendents. Sadly I can´t find the animal anymore.

    You’re talking about the carpos, which are difficult to find because someone managed to misspell the filename. I’ll fix that ASAP. Keep in mind, however, that the page is not up-to-date; the picture of the black carpo in particular is outdated.

  11. #11 Darren Naish
    March 24, 2008

    Oh – and when I said Spec’s birds were lame, I did not have carpos and nerds of paradise in mind, rather things like the tweety-birds. While on the subject of Spec, someone really should copyright all the text and illustrations asap.

  12. #12 Sordes
    March 24, 2008

    Thanks for that David. I´m a big fan of Specworld since I found it for the first time some years ago, when I was looking for information about terrestrial crocs. I ended up with hoplocrocs and at the beginning I actually they were real.
    But I just discovered today that Brian Choo, who I know since several years from a forum and who helped for my model-reconstruction of Janjucetus is also one of the Spec-Creators. The site is really fantastic, but it is sad that there are so many missing pages. I can hardly imagine how much work was needed to invent and illustrate all this species. It would be really great if it would be available as a book. Creating hypothetical animals is a hobby of me I had already in primary school, and in general I always tried to stay realistic. Yesterday I just found a Bestiarum-journal with more than 100 hand-written pages I wrote some years ago, and it was really cool to read about some of the creatures, especially about the strange cave-creatures I invented. If I find time (perhaps in some weeks) I will perhaps try to create a new hypothetical ecosystem with new creatures.

  13. #13 Zach Miller
    March 24, 2008

    Hyper-intelligent dromaeosaurs killed themselves via nuclear holocaust? I am a FIRM believer in that hypothesis.

  14. #14 Craig York
    March 24, 2008

    Lovecraft mentioned “Serpent people” in a story or two, but never really fleshed out the concept. I find his intelligent Pre-Cambrian Crinoids a lot more interesting.
    ( Though they are assuredly not tetrapods…) Wonderful
    post, thank-you!

  15. #15 Sordes
    March 24, 2008

    In “Mountains of Madness” there is some information about the reptilian “pre-humans” and a bit about their history, and I think they were mentioned in “The Haunter of the Dark”. But that´s mainly Cameron´s area, as he knows much more about Lovecraft than I do.

  16. #16 Nathan Myers
    March 24, 2008

    Nuclear holocaust? Why can’t they have steered an asteroid into a collision course with the reprehensible, despicable, devil-spawn of Yucatan, and just miscalculated the consequences? If our own Bush administration were so equipped, I’ve no doubt they would (albeit aiming elsewhere than Yucatan).

    And, why do they need big brains? Parrots seem equal to deeper reasoning, with their tiny brains, than some of my own colleagues. If we need sentient dinosaurs, I’m all in favor of thickening the spinal cord to serve in loco cerebellum, and reserving the entire brain proper for their analog of thought.

  17. #17 Nick Herold
    March 24, 2008

    Lovecraft did occasionally refer to subterranean reptilian people, but they weren’t emphasized–the major pre-human races were the radiate Old Ones who made their last stand in Antartica, the Great Race of Yith, and the children of Cthulhu and flying polyps that opposed them, respectively.

    A race of intelligent reptiles comes up in “The Mound”, which he ghost-wrote, as an enemy of the subterranean Kn’yan. “The Nameless City” has croc-like reptile men, as an interbreeding race with the Egyptian dynasties. Most of the other references to serpent people are part of the shared world Lovecraft encouraged fellow SF/horror/fantasy writers to write in. Robert Howard, of Conan fame, used subterranean serpent people a lot as antagonists, and Lovecraft’s mentions are homages to Howard.

    So, really, if any pulp authors of the 1930s were in cahoots with the sentient maniraptors in stasis deep below the earth’s surface, it was Howard. Maybe that’s why he committed suicide…

  18. #18 Darren Naish
    March 24, 2008

    Well.. you know, parrots don’t have small brains, quite the contrary. The brains of the bigger-brained species overlap with those of primates, including of hominids like orangs, gorillas and chimps. Again I will quote Andrew Iwaniuk: “if you overlay a graph of brain size to body mass for parrots on top of one for non-human primates, they sit in a perfect line”.

  19. #19 Alec T
    March 24, 2008

    Wouldn’t macloughini still be a typo, since you’re missing the l?

    [from Darren: yes, dumbass typo which I've now corrected. Thanks for noting it.]

  20. #20 shiva
    March 24, 2008

    I had this basic idea (K/T extinction event was caused by dinosaurs with human-equivalent intelligence via anthropogenic (dinosaurogenic?) climate change and/or weapons of mass destruction) about 5 years ago, without ever having heard of either McLoughlin or Magee.

    I did grow up on Lovecraft, tho, along with fortean/ancient-conspiracy writers like F.W. Holliday and Zechariah Sitchin, so i’m sure i wasn’t “original” either. In fact, i remember there being a thread on the old Fortean Times bulletin board (before FT was taken over by some other company and they changed the board registration system) about the subject. I guess it was inevitable, considering how long no one really knew exactly what caused the K/T event for (do they even know exactly now?), that when the ideas of dinosaurs being warm-blooded and with intelligence in the same ballpark as modern mammals became popular, someone would hypothesize that there was a Cretaceous global civilisation.

    Lovecraft and Howard, despite being very different writers in terms of style, did actually collaborate quite a lot, along with several other members of a circle they were the most famous of, and intended their works to be part of a single “continuity”, IIRC. They were also both notorious racists, sadly, but, well, pulp fiction has always overlapped heavily with actually-believed-in pseudoscience…

    Re parrots’ brains… yes, their brain-to-body-mass ratios are high, but, well, they’re pretty small overall. There’s probably an absolute size (or at least number of neurons) as well as relative size needed for intelligence. I mean, put a human brain in something the size of Amphicoelias, and its brain-to-body-mass ratio would be tiny, but it would still be as intelligent as a human.

    Then again, Homo floresiensis is potentially exciting in redefining this area, as they seem to have eliminated “redundancies” in their brain mass to keep at least Homo erectus level intelligence in a braincase smaller than that of a chimp…

  21. #21 Jerzy
    March 24, 2008

    Funny, birds show that high intelligence can evolve in situations completely different than humans. Forget sapient savanna dinosaurs and ground horbills…

    What if Common Ravens evolved to better steal carrion from carnivores and developed higher intelligence?

    Would be interesting sci-fi. Scary Ravenmasters invade from parallel world. They come with terrible soldiers and slaves – semi-sapient descendants of wolves and big cats. And, to make things worse, Ravenmasters are adept in spreading divisions and manipulating humanity to their goals…

    Or, sapient Kea versus Florida Scrub Jays? Gangs of bloodthirsty pirates flee from their freezing islands. Who caused climate change? Pacifist blue-winged farmers spreading their acorn oak plantations across much of Americas. Pirates declare war, naturally. But pacifists finally win, not by force, but by their better grasp of introspection and psychology. And what next? Pirates and farmers declare peace and venture across the Arctic to discover new continents and new sapient birds…

    If I lived 2000 years, maybe I would develop that sci-fi story…

  22. #22 David Marjanovi?
    March 24, 2008

    Off-topic: Pipa birth.

    Oh – and when I said Spec’s birds were lame, I did not have carpos and nerds of paradise in mind, rather things like the tweety-birds.

    But… but… the tweeties are poisonous!!!

    While on the subject of Spec, someone really should copyright all the text and illustrations asap.

    From a legal point of view, they are copyrighted simply by not having been explicitly put in the public domain. From a practical point of view… well… I know how to download pictures from the Dinosauricon. (That’s a site that actually tries to prevent you from doing that: right-clicking on it and clicking “save” does not work.) I’ve done it for talks. It’s trivial. So why bother.

    It would be really great if it would be available as a book. Creating hypothetical animals is a hobby of me I had already in primary school, and in general I always tried to stay realistic.

    “Come, come to the dork side of the farce.” Instructions here.

    Unfortunately, though, Daniel Bensen and Brian Choo haven’t done anything for years, due to lack of time. That’s why Spec is currently on my university webspace.

    BTW, most of the “missing” pages are there, it’s just that the links don’t work.

    Lovecraft mentioned “Serpent people” in a story or two, but never really fleshed out the concept. I find his intelligent Pre-Cambrian Crinoids a lot more interesting.

    What does a filter-feeder need intelligence for?

    considering how long no one really knew exactly what caused the K/T event for (do they even know exactly now?)

    For pretty high values of “exactly”… :-)

    What if Common Ravens evolved to better steal carrion from carnivores and developed higher intelligence?

    What do you think they’ve been doing all the time? :-)

  23. #23 Nathan Myers
    March 24, 2008

    This isn’t a rhetorical question: why would body mass have anything to do with those bits of brains used for thinking?

    We might speculate that brain tissue may be repurposed from managing physical processes, temporarily, for thinking. Or, we might speculate that some percentage of brain tissue might be stolen from physical-process management to think with, instead. But brain tissue is used as much for more-or-less passive sensory processing (visual, auditory) as for managing the body, for which body size should make little or no difference. That is, a body of size X reasonably needs nervous system tissue in quantity kX (not all intra-cranial, necessarily) to manage it, plus some constant amount Y for sensory evaluation, and further amount Z to think with. Y and Z ought to be independent of body mass X.

    All of the above seem to favor finding sentient reasoning to develop in physically larger individuals and, on average, physically larger species. Would a blue whale even notice, metabolically, giving over the brain tissue equivalent to an adult human cortex, to be used for cogitation? Perhaps elephants Never do Forget, but neither do they seem inclined to poetify, even during adolescence.

    Furthermore, the effectiveness of some given mass of nerve tissue for thinking ought to depend enormously on architecture. How well is the available supply of nerve cells used in the process? In the absence of deliberate design, ought not tissue tuned over eons for some other survival role to be of only indifferent quality when turned to some brand of abstract thought? I would expect easily an order of magnitude difference from one accidental repurposing to another, even discounting differences observed between individual humans (who anyway just about all learn to drive a car). The cognitive efficiency — to be crude, theorems proven per unit time per unit mass of nerve cells — ought to be low for younger genera, and higher for older ones. (The coelacanth ought to be a genius among fishes, and might even be; likewise tortoises.) Parrots have had far longer in their niche than have hominids in theirs.

    This linear mass relationship seems very suspicious to me. It suggests that the mass of nerve tissue found in creatures is a consequence of some sort of resource budgeting that has only a tenuous relationship to how much processing power can be brought to bear for the short periods where it tends to make a difference.

  24. #24 Jason Adams
    March 24, 2008

    The first dinosauroids (although, in this case, they turned out to be mosasauroids) I remember running across are the Yilane from Harry Harrison’s West of Eden (and the rest of the Eden trilogy). Not much in the way of scientific accuracy, but the series has some pretty creative ideas about how language might develop in reptiles, and how said brainy reptiles might genetically alter a frog to become a functional living microscope.

  25. #25 Nathan Myers
    March 25, 2008

    Expanding (sorry!) on this linear mass ratio (body::brain) common among avian and non-Homo hominid species…

    For these numbers to fall on a line suggests very strongly that they are dictated not by anything related to an animal’s way of life or its environment. Rather, the numbers are dictated by metabolic limits common to any warm-blooded vertebrate living in a sufficiently complicated environment. That is, the brain size is not determined by what is needed to compete; the brain size is simply as large as can be sustained at all, given the resources typically available to these creatures. (I.e., a richer environment yields a larger population, not a bigger brain.)

    It also implies that the animal can make use of as much processing power as can be brought to bear — but only sometimes, such as during mating season, so that the cost of sustaining any extra brain mass during the rest of the time limits its size. This suggests, further, strong selective pressure to improve brain architecture to make more economical use of what brain tissue can be afforded, applied to those problems where it makes the difference — again, most likely, mating competition. It suggests, finally, that Homo’s innovation was in discovering uses for extra brain tissue on an everyday basis, to justify a metabolic investment above that of other creatures of similar mass.

    Has all this already been explored by people better equipped than I am?

  26. #26 Anthony Docimo
    March 25, 2008

    I remember a while back (a few years, at least), there was news of an upcoming book….in said book, a descendant of famed Antarctic explorer Byrd retraced her ancestor’s steps, and finds (the ruins of?) a dinosaur city — because, back in the Mesozoic, another civilization arose, and they went to sleep rather than become extinct.

    Another, if shorter, story, was in either Analog or Azimov magazine…a paleontologist becomes obsessed with the idea of that dinosaurs must’ve produced at least one intelligence….and by the end, her husband realizes that, if you look at some (Triassic?) tracks, you can see the herbivores being herded.

  27. #27 Vladimir Socha
    March 25, 2008

    Great article on intelligent dinosaurs. Thank you for citing my article here, it’s truly an honor for me. I’ve also written a story on this topic, but again, completely in Czech :-) Keep up good work, Vlad

  28. #28 Susan
    March 25, 2008

    I was going to mention Harry Harrison’s “West of Eden” books about human-like dinosaurs, but another poster beat me to it. Harry’s books over all are your usual science fiction pulp but I thought the “West of Eden” books were quite entertaining, he seemed to write them with a little more care.(Although I do agree about the scientific inaccuracys) The hypothetical dino-critters above also resemble the sleestacks from “Land of the Lost”. Anyone ever see that show?

  29. #29 Jay Lake
    March 25, 2008

    Surely you are talking about John C. McLoughlin’s SF novel TOOLMAKER KOAN. Though THE HELIX AND THE SWORD was a better book, in IMHO — that second one being vastly underrated.

  30. #30 David Marjanovi?
    March 25, 2008

    Has all this already been explored by people better equipped than I am?

    Not that I know of.

    Remember: the closer you get to humans, the worse the science gets.

  31. #31 Andreas Johansson
    March 25, 2008

    What does a filter-feeder need intelligence for?

    These “crinoids” were carnivores. It’s a good question why Lovecraft refered to them as “crinoid”, because to the extent they resemble real echinoderms at all they’re more like asterozoans. Volant amphibian asterozoans.

    Back to apocalyptical Cretaceous war, one dinobook I had as a kid had a page listing various more-or-less sane explanations for the extinction of dinosaurs, ranging from asteroidal impact to volcanic eruptions, mammalian egg-predation, disease, and, indeed, technological war, complete with an illustration of two theropods blasting one another with what looked like standard-issue SF laser pistols. I imagine it was written in the ’80s.

  32. #32 Mark Lees
    March 25, 2008

    Jay Lake mentioned ‘The Helix and the Sword’ – one of my all time favourite sci-fi novels, but rarely referred to and not given the recognition it deserves in my opinion. Lots of good stuff about genetic modification.

    I notice again the reference to ground hornbills – several years ago (2004) I saw wild southern ground hornbills in South Luangwa Valley national park Zambia. It occurred to me at the time that their behaviour on the ground may be a much better model of the behaviour of small to medium sized dromaeosaurs than the usual pack hunter of megafauna model I see used. The ground hornbills foraged as a small group catching large invertebrates and small vertebrates – apparently sometimes cooperating to flush prey (though I didn’t see that happen). Even the sickle claw would seem more convincing as a means of pinning down and/or despatching small prey than as a slashing weapon it is usually depicted as. On the latter point the BBC program of a year or two ago convinced me that the sickle claw was not effective as a slashing blade – I know some have tried to argue that the program got it wrong, but frankly thier arguments have been less convincing to me than the original work was.

    I also don’t like the use fo the name ‘hobbit’ for ‘Homo floresiensis’, which remains an unproven taxon as far as I am concerned. At the moment the jury is out until we have substantially more material, but it seems to me the best fit with the overall evidence is that poor little ‘Ebu’ (LB1) was probably an abberrent individual in a population of either pygmy Homo sapiens or pygmy Homo erectus.

    I am actually more interested in the fervour with which so many people want to believe ‘Homo floresiensis’ is a valid separate species of human – some appear to want to believe because they just love the idea, others seem from their comments to have anti-religious ideas (though this seems to be more that it doesn’t fit with their idea of how theology should be, rather than it actually being a problem for any religious belief).

    As for ravens being intelligent – just go out and watch them – they are truely amazing. Few birds give such a strong impression of simply getting a kick out of flying. I see them over my garden and in the mountains a few miles away. The way they do somersaults in the air and clearly play is wonderful. I saw a film clip a few years back of a pair of ravens teasing a dog – there was no other word for it, they were quite deliberately for no apparent reason other than getting some kind of fun out of it cooperating to annoy the dog – it was incredibly funny to watch, but I guess not if your a dog lover!

    I have often wondered if there is any correlation between play behaviour and self awareness or sentience. Mammals and birds generally seem to show play behaviour at least at some stages in their lives – with the apparently more intelligent forms showing more developed play behaviour. Outside of mammals and birds, the most convincing evidence I know of is for play behaviour in some Lamniform sharks, though other potential instances exist for a few reptiles, some large teleosts and cephalopods. Except for the sharks I dont find the others particularly convincing. Any thoughts on play behaviour as an indicator of sentience, and highly developed play behaviour as an indicator of significant intelligence?

  33. #33 Darren Naish
    March 25, 2008

    Mark – thanks for comments. The argument that the deinonychosaur sickle-claw did not function well in predation (as argued by Manning et al.) was appallingly bad and most certainly does not match with the evidence: I’ll have to elaborate on this at some time (was planning a paper on it actually).

    Having read the papers, I think the evidence that Homo floresiensis is a real species is far better than the evidence that the individuals are stunted abnormalities. I agree that people seem to have developed opinions on this issue based on their personal preferences, but this seems to have afflicted those arguing for microcephaly/cretinism the most. I don’t quite understand how this has anything to do with religion, but I’ll take your word for it.

    Finally, if you haven’t already seen it, I discussed play behaviour in reptiles back here. The evidence that turtles, lizards and crocodilians engage in play is pretty compelling.

  34. #34 StupendousMan
    March 25, 2008

    … the numbers are dictated by metabolic limits common to any warm-blooded vertebrate living in a sufficiently complicated environment. That is, the brain size is not determined by what is needed to compete; the brain size is simply as large as can be sustained at all, given the resources typically available to these creatures….

    Has all this already been explored by people better equipped than I am?

    Have you read this?


    Global and regional brain metabolic scaling and its functional consequences
    by Jan Karbowski, BMC Biol. 2007; 5: 18.

  35. #35 Jenny Islander
    March 25, 2008

    WRT play behavior: I once saw a murder of crows harassing a cat. They had surrounded it and were trying to get a rise out of it. Unfortunately for them, the cat didn’t know it was supposed to be upset, or even predatory, and kept making play gestures back at them. Eventually they just settled in a circle around it and stared. I had to move on then, so I don’t know what happened.

  36. #36 Robert
    March 25, 2008

    The intelligent reptiles in Doctor Who went into suspended animation to survive a asteroid impact, but the asteroid was captured, becoming Earth’s moon – which is even less plausible than the biology. They were named Silurians by the first scientists they met, after their presumed era of origin. The Doctor eventually said they came from the Eocene. They’d used genetic engineering to get a third eye which could shoot various rays, as you do, but otherwise looked pretty humanoid.

  37. #37 Nathan Myers
    March 25, 2008

    Thanks, StupendousMan! What a cornucopia of empirical numbers, and of references. I like that there are exactly 100 of the latter, another example of one of those suspicious numbers.

    Going back to the original topic, then, to develop sentience we need (a) a mode of life in which increments of brain capacity can, somehow, help secure correspondingly more resources, on a daily basis; but (b) not at the expense of related individuals; (c) brain organization that can apply such increments to securing those extra resources; and (d) brain organization suitable to ponder freely when not called upon for (c).

  38. #38 John Scanlon, FCD
    March 25, 2008

    @ Nathan: to start with your last question, almost certainly yes. That is, there’s a lot of stuff out there on those topics, and I gather you are not yet fully equipped with this background. Also note that the brain mass: body mass values fall on a straight line (within a physiologically and cognitively ‘equivalent’ set of taxa) only on a log-log plot, i.e. it’s a power law rather than an actual direct proportionality.

  39. #39 David Marjanovi?
    March 25, 2008

    I am actually more interested in the fervour with which so many people want to believe ‘Homo floresiensis’ is a valid separate species of human – some appear to want to believe because they just love the idea

    In my limited experience, it’s more the other way around: some people just don’t want to believe in human island dwarfs and prefer speculating about rare combinations of rare diseases. The situation reminds me of how the Neandertal controversy raged for decades in the 19th century (rachitic Cossack and all).

    The paper on the island dwarfs of Palau is very interesting in this respect: it suggests that some “primitive” features could be a result of dwarfing, so that the hobbits (sorry, I love that name — perhaps because I haven’t read Tolkien) could actually be H. sapiens rather than (derived from) H. erectus.

    others seem from their comments to have anti-religious ideas (though this seems to be more that it doesn’t fit with their idea of how theology should be, rather than it actually being a problem for any religious belief).

    I don’t understand. Please explain.

    Regarding the sickle claw, it might have had a cutting edge; the TV show assumed the edge was rounded… in any case, the show was majorly unrealistic in having the claw first stabbing into the, uh, substrate and then being pulled through it, instead of having all that done in one smooth motion, so that the pulling is done by the whole leg, part of a kick, and not just by the 2nd toe alone.

  40. #40 Darren Naish
    March 25, 2008

    Let me add at this point that David is not one of my clones, that any and all similarities are purely coincidental :)

    (if you don’t know what I’m getting at, read my comment seven up from this one)

  41. #41 Nathan Myers
    March 26, 2008

    @John S.: To be precise, I wonder if it has been explored whether lying on that line implies only seasonal use of full brain capacity. It’s certainly the case that I’m not equipped, professionally, to explore the question myself.

    It bugs me, too, hearing those skeletons called hobbits. For one thing, nobody knows if their feet had curly hair on top, and it seems unlikely that they lived in snug, cozy homes with circular doors dug into hillsides, or undertook quests to hurl inconvenient jewelry into Gunung Agung. I’d be much more comfortable calling Welshmen hobbits, albeit not to their faces.

  42. #42 Andrea Cau
    March 26, 2008

    Great post and great example of cultural convergence…
    About 16 years ago, when I was 14, I began to wrote a story about a “K-T Boundary maker” intelligent theropod morphologically similar to the Bioparaptor that I called Anthroposaurus (yes, the same name was used at least twice). I’ve never heard of McLoughlin’s or Magee’s versions of this idea! I believed only Russel’s dinosauroid have been created.
    “My” anthroposaurs lived in colonies similar to hen houses, and founded two super-states in Eastern North America and Northern Gondwana (this explains why anthroposaurs remains are absent in the rich fossil sites from Patagonia, Western North America and Asia: these were their immense food reserve). The K-T event was the effect of a Total War between the Laurasian and the Gondwanan states.

    Now, I prefer “Avisapiens”: it’s less anthropocentric.

  43. #43 David Harmon
    March 26, 2008

    Very cool article! Agreed, there is absolutely no reason why an intelligent species must be shaped to use a human-built phone booth!

    Regarding the possibility of an intelligent dinosaurid, I note that a goodly number of our own artifacts probably will survive to the next geological age, but a lot of that is plastics, and the hypothetical dinosaurids presumably wouldn’t have had nearly as much access to crude oil. (Modulo theories about inorganic/geological sources….)

    On the other hand, the Great Extinction we’ve been causing depends more on our voraciousness and wanderlust than high technology — between forest clearance, ocean “harvesting”, and scattering exotic species, we’d be getting into trouble Real Soon Now, even without the CO2 overload.

    Regarding the brain/body mass issue — note that between australopithecus and Cro-Magnons, our ancestors did get a lot bigger, presumably allowing for absolutely larger brains. (And demanding much more food, thus hunting techniques and agriculture.)

  44. #44 trekker
    March 26, 2008

    Star Trek: Voyager’s Voth race, anyone?

  45. #45 Paul Riddell
    March 26, 2008

    Darren, I’ve had as much fun watching the grand evolution of the sentient dromaeosaur as you have (I was a sophomore in high school when the Dale Russell dinosauroid made the news, and I bought the issue of OMNI that featured its pictorial and theoretical skull structure), and I have one extra to add as far as cultural references. I’ve noted that the idea of long-lost prehistoric technologies turning up in the middle of London is a long-running British science fiction theme (for instance, the old Doctor Who villains the Silurians and Sea Devils, the terrestrial and aquatic subspecies of Earth’s first civilization, are coming to DVD in the US next month), and Alan Moore, the comics writer behind Watchmen and V For Vendetta, played around with bioparanoia over 25 years ago.

    If you look, you can find the strip in question from the old British stalwart weekly 2000 AD, the venue that brought us Judge Dredd. (2000 AD also had a lot of fun over the years with the meme of dinosaurs living in atomic wastelands, but that’s another story). In this “Future Shock”, we have two classrooms, with two instructors making similar observations on the effect of an asteroid strike on Earth and a global thermonuclear war. At the end of the asteroid strike lecture, the professor notes that this almost definitely wiped out the dinosaurs, giving us our opportunity, and that any similar event might give the insects a chance. One student scoffs “Us being replaced by insects? No chance!”

    Meanwhile, we discover that the other lecture ends with the professor noting that a global thermonuclear war would lead to a massive extinction event, with the dominant forms possibly being replaced by the mammals. We discover that the lecture was held 65 million years ago, with a theropod student mouthing off “Us being replaced by small furry mammals? No chance!” while kicking a shrew to the pavement.

  46. #46 Venusian
    March 26, 2008

    ” my good friend Nemo Ramjet ” has a lot of Wayne Barlow”s excellent work running through his head. Tons and tons and tons of it. Wayne’s “Expedition” book, as well as his earlier “Thype” project. It’s so obvious I don’t even have to go look up the references.

    Ramjet has some talent, but it is wasted trying to be someone else, and I’m sure Mr. Barlow would say so as well.

  47. #47 Thomas M. Fozy
    March 26, 2008

    Venusian: How rude, and inaccurate.

  48. #48 David Marjanovi?
    March 26, 2008

    Let me add at this point that David is not one of my clones, that any and all similarities are purely coincidental :)

    Coincidental!?! Great minds think alike! And so do idiots!

  49. #49 David Marjanovi?
    March 26, 2008

    It’s so obvious I don’t even have to go look up the references.

    You will go look up the references anyway and report them here in detail.

  50. #50 Venusian
    March 26, 2008

    Rude ? Stealing Barlow’s vision is rude. Inaccurate ? Not true – he’s stolen Barlow’s brain, and I’m sure he wants it back. If you knew Barlow’s work we wouldn’t be having this conversation.

    Barlow – http://www.waynebarlowe.com/expedition_pages/exped_gyrosprinter.htm

    Ramjet – http://www.nemoramjet.com/images/noslice/snaiad/allotauruscataphractus.jpg

    If you’re going to argue that they are not EXACTLY the same, that is only because they are examples, and I’m sure Ramjet didn’t trace it.

  51. #51 Venusian
    March 26, 2008

    http://www.nemoramjet.com/images/noslice/snaiad/hoplodermatraumachelys.jpg

    Open skull head and posture-http://www.waynebarlowe.com/expedition_pages/exped_daggerwrist.htm

    Small head -http://www.waynebarlowe.com/expedition_pages/exped_sac_back.htm

    Split Feet – http://www.waynebarlowe.com/expedition_pages/exped_arrowtongue.htm

    I didn’t say this to be mean. Okay I did, but with a reason. I’m shocked by the cut and paste plagiarism.

  52. #52 Venusian2
    March 26, 2008

    http://www.nemoramjet.com/images/noslice/snaiad/hoplodermatraumachelys.jpg

    Open skull head and posture-http://www.waynebarlowe.com/expedition_pages/exped_daggerwrist.htm

    Small head -http://www.waynebarlowe.com/expedition_pages/exped_sac_back.htm

    Split Feet – http://www.waynebarlowe.com/expedition_pages/exped_arrowtongue.htm

    I didn’t say this to be mean. Okay I did, but with a reason. I’m shocked by the cut and paste plagiarism.

  53. #53 johannes
    March 26, 2008

    > If you’re going to argue that they are not EXACTLY the same,
    > that is only because they are examples, and I’m sure Ramjet didn’t
    > trace it.

    They are both terrestrial megafauna, but that’s where the similarity ends. The gyrosprinter is a cursorial, bipedal, small to mid-sized animal with uncertain dietary habits. The golden bull is a huge, graviportal, armoured, quadrupedal megaherbivore. They are about as similar to each other as a leptictid is to a titanosaur. If you have no better examples, don’t pick on Nemo.

  54. #54 Abby Normal
    March 26, 2008

    I don’t normally post here. But your talk about racial memory of dinosaurs reminded me of this comic. I thought you might get a kick out of it.

  55. #55 Nemo Ramjet
    March 26, 2008

    Much has been made of this issue before. Wayne Barlowe did influence me greatly and I won’t deny that “Expedition” directly led me into the world of speculative zoology, like many other people.

    But I wouldn’t say I’m plagiarizing, let alone “tracing over” Barlowe’s work.

    Snaiadi animals are pretty distinct from those of Darwin IV; they have a discernible evolutionary history, eyes and jaws, some have fur, etc. There are no gasbag floaters or jet propelled flyers. Hopefully, the upcoming overhaul of the Snaiad website will make this more clear than ever.

    Some visual characteristics like the toe-less, club-shaped feet and angular bodies, might look a bit like Barlowian, but I wouldn’t go as far to equate that with “brain theft.”

  56. #56 Venusian
    March 26, 2008

    And the grey alien on your menu page isn’t just a total riff of of http://www.tobinmueller.com/artsforge/gallery_new/giger/barlowe6.html ?

    You’re talented, but from one artist to another – you’ve got to find your own vision man.

  57. #57 Venusian
    March 26, 2008

    http://www.nemoramjet.com/images/noslice/snaiad/hoplodermatraumachelys.jpg

    Open skull head and posture-http://www.waynebarlowe.com/expedition_pages/exped_daggerwrist.htm

    Small head -http://www.waynebarlowe.com/expedition_pages/exped_sac_back.htm

    Split Feet – http://www.waynebarlowe.com/expedition_pages/exped_arrowtongue.htm

    I was trying to post this before but was blocked.

  58. #58 Matt Wedel
    March 26, 2008

    You’re talented, but from one artist to another -

    Whoa, I don’t think being a b.s. artist counts. Basically all you’ve shown so far is that Nemo and Barlowe both draw aliens. I suppose if I drew an alien I’d be ripping off both of them.

    Oh, wait! Nemo has two syllables and ends in an ‘o’ sound. Just like Barlowe! Even his name is plagiarized!

    See, anyone can play if they lower their standards–of evidence, of fair play, of appropriate behavior in a public forum–far enough.

    I’m dying to see if you’ve got anything better. Or a real name to post along with your “advice”.

  59. #59 Jerzy
    March 26, 2008

    This is not plagiarism. Neither in legal sense, nor by genre standards.

    You may be unfamiliar with sci-fi, but misshapen gigantic brachiosaur/elephant-like beasts are common trope. Some in Star Wars look the same. My favorites were Lem’s kurdls, which were hunted by sport huntsmen getting swallowed alive and small A-bombs.

    The same goes for alternative evolution and sapient maniraptors. Not that Nemo should feel down – actually, it is difficult to come up with something that was NOT already explored in several sci-fi stories.

  60. #60 neil
    March 26, 2008

    Nathan-

    There are lots and lots and lots of papers out there on the factors (development, metabolism, life history) that set brain/body scaling relationships out there, the Karbowski (2007) paper is a good jumping off point. Symonds (1999) looked at correlations between metabolism, life history (e.g. seasonality), body and brain mass in insectivores; might be another one for you to check out. Unfortunately all of these factors are correlated in complicated ways so untangling the causal relationships has proven pretty difficult.

    Linking all of this to ‘sentience’ is going to be hard however, since our pool of sentient taxa has a sample size of one, on a good day. My personal suspicion is that ‘sentience’ has just as much to do with social structure as neural architecture. You note that many humans learn to drive cars, but very few of them do that without any assistance (and very, very few of them build their own car from scratch). Of course, brain morphology and social structure are themselves closely linked and the animals that we consider to be particularly “smart”, and the ones which tend to have high intercepts on the log brain mass v. log body mass plot, (cetaceans, parrots, corvids, elephants) invariably have complex social structures. I imagine the Anthroposaurs and Biopararaptors did too, judging from the jewelry at least.

  61. #61 neil
    March 26, 2008

    Here’s a proper reference for that Symonds (1999) paper, since I obviously couldn’t HTML my way out of a paper bag…

    Matthew R. E. Symonds (1999) Life histories of the Insectivora: the role of phylogeny, metabolism and sex differences Journal of Zoology 249 (3) , 315-337 doi:10.1111/j.1469-7998.1999.tb00768.x

    Possibly functional link to the abstract.

  62. #62 venusian
    March 26, 2008

    I am a SF artist who has worked as an illustrator for a for a the Royal Tyrrell Museum of Palaeontology.When I said I don’t even need to research to know where the infuence was from ( and very specifically ) it was because this is the business I’m in, and artist visual memory.

    I apologize for coming all ‘internet hard’ I was out of line. I do think as an artist you need influences, and to not let them overwhelm you. If Nemo has heard it before, perhaps he needs to take that into account.

    http://www.nemoramjet.com/images/noslice/snaiad/hoplodermatraumachelys.jpg

    Open skull head and posture-http://www.waynebarlowe.com/expedition_pages/exped_daggerwrist.htm

    Small head -http://www.waynebarlowe.com/expedition_pages/exped_sac_back.htm

    Split Feet – http://www.waynebarlowe.com/expedition_pages/exped_arrowtongue.htm

  63. #63 Venusian
    March 26, 2008

    I am a SF artist who has worked as an illustrator for a for a the Royal Tyrrell Museum of Palaeontology.When I said I don’t even need to research to know where the infuence was from ( and very specifically ) it was because this is the business I’m in, and artist visual memory.

    I apologize for coming all ‘internet hard’ I was out of line. I do think as an artist you need influences, and to not let them overwhelm you. If Nemo has heard it before, perhaps he needs to take that into account.

    http://www.nemoramjet.com/images/noslice/snaiad/hoplodermatraumachelys.jpg

    Open skull head and posture-http://www.waynebarlowe.com/expedition_pages/exped_daggerwrist.htm

    Small head -http://www.waynebarlowe.com/expedition_pages/exped_sac_back.htm

    Split Feet – http://www.waynebarlowe.com/expedition_pages/exped_arrowtongue.htm

  64. #64 Nathan Myers
    March 26, 2008

    The only resemblance I see is that both mens’ work are drawings of imagined animals.

    I have to admit I find all of them insufficiently imaginative, given non-terrestrial origins, and at the same time unbiological. I think biology offers plenty of room for true novelty not actually explored by our own biome, without Heath-Robinson reaching.

  65. #65 raj
    March 26, 2008

    may be they evolve so much that they are present today also and they devlope themself so much that they are living without being noticed

  66. #66 John Conway
    March 26, 2008

    Hey Venusian, if that is your real name, for an artist, you sure do have odd ideas about art. Most artists are… get this… influenced by other artists! Shocking huh?

    Some of Nemo’s work is obviously influenced by Barlowe, but a lot of it isn’t. Nemo’s got as much of a unique voice as any artist I know, and a broader range than most.

    I’d like to see some of your obviously pristine and original work.

  67. #67 Nemo Ramjet
    March 26, 2008

    The character that appears on my website is more of a bastardized version of Eliphas Levi’s Baphomet http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/a/a4/Baphomet.png
    and the Artemis of Ephesus http://www.mlahanas.de/Greeks/Mythology/Images/ArtemisEphesos.jpg

    The idea there was to create a weird, but plausible deity. Not that I need to explain Venusian every piece of work I create, but wing or horn-like appendages around the head are have long been considered a symbol of power and wisdom. For a -long- time: http://picasaweb.google.com/s.larsen/PanoramaLand02/photo#5100079739243333666

    Perhaps we were all copying from the same source, then?

  68. #68 woot
    March 26, 2008

    http://www.overcomingbias.com/2008/02/dinos-on-the-mo.html

    “At the SETI conference last week I was surprised to hear NASA’s Chris McKay suggest we look for dinosaur relics on the moon. Dinos went suddenly extinct about 65M years ago, and the dino fossil record seems spotty enough that we could have missed a lineage that went from possum to human sized brains in the ~10M year period it took mammals. We could also have missed relics of a stone-tool phase that lasted only .2M years. But a dino lander left on the moon should stay visible a very long time.”

    Please discuss.

  69. #69 Venusian
    March 26, 2008

    As reactive as I can be to seeing something that (to me ) seems scoffed. I apologize for my bad manners will now sew my fingers together inhibit any more typing. I will try and learn from this for the future.

  70. #70 craig york
    March 26, 2008

    woot- Its a daft, but charming notion. Most of the objections to it seem pretty well covered in the comments
    at the link you posted. What seems curious to me is the amount of time the dinosaurs had to develop sentience, yet
    seem to have failed to do so. Granted, there are a handful of geological anomolies that suggest some technological
    presence long before humanity*, but not enough to build a
    case on.

    * I’d have to go look them up-but I suspect the adventurous
    will check out the archives of SCIENCE FRONTIERS ONLINE to
    find the references.

  71. #71 Ian
    March 26, 2008

    Dinosaurs had ~165 million years and they went nowhere with regard to developing our kind of intelligence. Mammals have had only half that and produced humans. Why do people think dinosaurs would have got there “if they’d only survived the asteroid…”?

  72. #72 David Marjanovi?
    March 26, 2008

    They are about as similar to each other as a leptictid is to a titanosaur.

    Well put!

    Why do people think dinosaurs would have got there “if they’d only survived the asteroid…”?

    Intelligence isn’t correlated to time. Evolution depends on the mutations that happen and the environment they happen in. In Spec there is no human-style intelligence, mainly because we want to make the point that human-style intelligence isn’t inevitable.

    the dino fossil record seems spotty enough that we could have missed a lineage that went from possum to human sized brains in the ~10M year period it took mammals. We could also have missed relics of a stone-tool phase that lasted only .2M years.

    If all that was completely confined to, say, the Late Cretaceous of Australia… then yes…

    BTW, our “stone-tool phase” lasted more like 2 than like 0.2 million years.

  73. #73 Nathan Myers
    March 26, 2008

    @woot: I agree that a lack of dinosaur artifacts on the moon would soundly eliminate the notion that it was paleo-Republican dinosaurs who steered the asteroid into Yucatán. However, the moon is a big place.

  74. #74 madarab
    March 27, 2008

    Asimov had an early short story called “Big Game” where the stereotypical “Great White Hunter” character goes back in time to the late cretaceous to hunt. There, he finds himself hunted by intelligent dinosaurs who are busy wiping out all of the rest of the faunua.

    Steven Baxter’s “Evolution” contained a segment about about intelligent dinosaurs. They never mastered fire (They had no need.), and thus never advanced particularly far technologically. They died out as Pangea started rifting.

  75. #75 Benjamin
    March 27, 2008

    Great post and I love the comments discussion, too.

    I, too, have always had a fondness for “pretend biology” and as a child devoured the stuff by Barlowe, Dixon, and friends. I feel sorry for today’s children who have to suffer things like “The Future Is Wild”, but maybe they’ll inspire some kid to do more imaginative stuff. (As for me, I ran a series of false-animal drawings guised as a comic strip featuring images from the “Columbian Museum of Natural History: 1889 Catalog a few years back. [The very curious or bored can find the archives under "Catalog" at the bottom of http://www.flakmag.com/comics/ ] Shameless self-promotion aside, it was fun to do.)

    But, on the topic of evolved prehistorics, lest we forget the Mahars, Edgar Rice Burroughs’ super-intelligent pterosaurs that spoke telepathically, ate humans, watched gladiatorial theatre, and eliminated the need for male members of their species through artificial insemination. [Also of note, the Weiroo from his book "Out of Time's Abyss" which were bat-like people who appeared to somehow be the next step in human evolution. Don't know how that one worked, but it was cool when you're 12.]

  76. #76 Nathan Myers
    March 27, 2008

    @neil: Thank you for the reference.

  77. #77 David Marjanovi?
    March 27, 2008

    and thus never advanced particularly far technologically.

    Why would that be?

    They died out as Pangea started rifting.

    LOL! :-D

  78. #78 serafX
    April 1, 2008

    Very interesant.

  79. #79 I. M. Anonymous
    May 31, 2008

    I think thats the reason why furries exist…

  80. #80 Mike Magee
    May 15, 2009

    I only just came across this interesting page in what seems like an interesting blog. A book like Who Lies Sleeping? can hardly be anything other than weird, I guess, and entertaining too though no doubt humorous is meant. The book had to be written with little concrete evidence to go on, and the expectation that anything said would invite the patronizing smirk, but many of the points mentioned in discussion appear in the book. Correspondents ought to read it. It is available both new and second hand from many online bookshops, eBay and here at AskWhy!, still! A point that even Darren missed is that the book is meant to provoke thought about its obvious subject matter, but by so doing is meant to provoke thought about our own present situation — our own destruction of our own environment. It is meant to be looked at from both ends of the timeline, so to speak. One researcher began to build a project on that basis, a consideration of what just would remain of a civilization like ours 65 million years on. We have to assume someone or something is looking at our remains that far in the future, or we can think what would remain of such a civilization that far in the past. Shame the discussion ceased, and tended to wander off topic, but that seems inevitable in online chats. Anyway, there was plenty new here for me in the post, so I enjoyed it.

  81. #81 Adam Lafene
    July 27, 2009

    I disagree that the 1981 Dinosauroid is too human. Critics of Russell’s design are too hung up on brain size as the defining characteristic of a hominid. The defining characteristic of a hominid is tool-use (hence the opposable thumbs). For an “intelligent” tetrapod which is totally dependent on tools for survival the human body shape is actually an elegant solution.

  82. #82 Darren Naish
    July 27, 2009

    Of course it’s too human: it looks just like a tridactyl, scaly person! You perhaps miss the point: that there’s no reason whatsoever for thinking that Cretaceous dinosaurs – were they to evolve giant brains and/or tool use – would end up looking like this. And, for the record, the human body shape is not ‘an elegant solution’: it’s the product of a history that involved slow climbing in trees and so on.

  83. #83 Adam Lafene
    July 29, 2009

    But the human body shape also differs somewhat from our tree-swinging primate relatives- we are the only living primate which is 100% bipedal for example. These adaptations have developed because of our reliance on tools and it’s reliance on tools which has accelerated the evolution of larger brains in human species not vice versa. When I look at Nemo’s alternative dinosauroid or the Bioparaptor macloughlini, these to me do not look like animals which rely on tools for survival. Try to picture them, for example, managing a fire, or throwing a spear (or throwing anything). Why would Nemo’s dinosauroid even need to evolve tool-use or intelligence to the extent that humans have? It looks pretty fast and has a great big beak and claws with which to hunt its prey.

    Also I don’t see why Russell’s Dinosauroid couldn’t have evolved from a species of tree-dwelling dinosaur. The likelihood is that humans evolved from primates forced by environmental pressures to adapt to a less densely forested environment than the one they were originally evolved for; and it just so happened that they possessed certain tree-dwelling adaptations – hands with opposable thumbs and binocular vision – which were necessary for the development of advanced tool-use. With this in mind one could suppose that ancestors of the Dinosauroid might have gone through a tree-dwelling phase. Perhaps one could even make the case that a Dinosauroid could not have evolved any other way.

  84. #84 Simon Roy
    July 29, 2009

    Adam: You’re making a lot of assumptions that maybe aren’t as necessary as you think.
    For one, tree-dwelling dinosaurs would probably look more like tree-kangaroos or birds then monkeys or apes – making that hominid-style body-plan a lot less likely.
    As for intelligence and tool-making, there are plenty of examples of creatures that lack the adaptations you’re referencing that are still capable of very complex thought and tool-use. Elephants, crows, etc all are very intelligent – tool-using and social – depite not having the eyes and hands of apes. Ape adaptations have been perfect for our evolution and advanced tools, but why would the same rules apply to a hypothetical intelligent species of dinosaur?

  85. #85 Adam Lafene
    December 17, 2009

    Hmm, I guess it depends on the point of the thought experiment. If it’s to create a hypothetical species which is merely intelligent and social and evolved from Theropod Dinosaurs then many birds already fulfil those criteria. If it’s to create a species which possesses more specific human characteristics such as the ability to create art, use fire, fashion tools, build shelters- perhaps even make use of agriculture, then I’m not convinced that the body shape of an elephant or a crow or a tree kangaroo would cut it (although I believe the ancestors of primates looked a bit like tree kangaroos)

  86. #86 Spencer
    December 29, 2009

    If they were so smart, they would figure out a way to shift their arms center of gravity over their feet :)

  87. #87 David Marjanović
    December 29, 2009

    shift their arms center of gravity over their feet

    What for?

  88. #88 Spencer
    January 3, 2010

    @87, For starters having your arms center of gravity over your feet lets you lift things and carry things and not be limited by the weight of your tail. Many theropod arms appear to have many vestigal characteristics. They became bipedal and in say T-rex the arms were withering away, an ostrich is another case in point. Dinosaurs started with strong five fingered arms but apparently there wasn’t a selective pressure to retain them.

  89. #89 David Marjanović
    January 4, 2010

    and not be limited by the weight of your tail.

    OK, but does that actually ever become relevant? Isn’t that a much too small effect that occurs outside the range of weights anyone needs to lift in daily life? And have you noticed how difficult it is for humans to pick up something big and heavy from the ground, because we have so much trouble standing up while holding the vertebral column horizontal?

    in say T-rex the arms were withering away

    Absolutely not. They represent the complete victory of grasping strength over grasping speed. They were incredibly robust, with humongous muscle attachment sites. The humerus was the length of yours, but the diameter of your entire upper arm – an impressively strong, columnar, thick-walled bone. The fingers were so big and strong that there was only room for two of them per hand!

    Compare that to an ostrich (or an abelisaurid), and weep. :-)

  90. #90 LJV
    June 3, 2010

    I think it’s small-minded to say an advanced intelligent Dino would look like a bird. We know BIRDS look like birds, and that birds evolved from a type of dinosaur very like those which we are considering for the civilsed Dino. But to have an advanced Dino look…just like a bird, is convergent evolution, or parallel evolution, of the most ridiculous kind! And there’s no need for it. Would that species be pecking about in bushes? No. They’d have tools, need to stand up for good vision and well-balanced weight, etc. All the evolutionary arguments for how WE look like we do could be applied to them. I do actually think the Dinosauroid looks wrong–but too soft…like some gentle, thoughtful frog. I think if people went at it again with modern conceptions of Dromaeosaurs or Troodontids they would get it closer. Oh — and critics seem to really hate the upright-stance aspect. WELL…It works for us. Chimps can’t walk for miles or run marathons while having good vision all around, but we can. You people seem to think: It can’t have happened before…because we are the only evidence we know for it! Well WE KNOW THAT…THAT IS THE WHOLE DISCUSSION!!! But we are just speculating that…IT COULD BE POSSIBLE! Getting to big-brained, however, in record time, is another whole barrel of fish. And that just suggests, perhaps, just how amazing, and unexplained, WE are!!!!
    Great discussion, great blog :)

  91. #91 Darren Naish
    June 3, 2010

    LJV: with respect, you’re totally missing the point… this being that troodontids were so bird-like to begin with that there just isn’t any reason to think that they might somehow have evolved an ape-like or human-like shape. As I’ve said on many occasions, we owe our body shape to our specific evolutionary history. If big brains, sentience and tool use were to evolve in bipedal maniraptoran dinosaurs, it’s wise to assume that they would have remained bipedal maniraptoran dinosaurs. You’re assuming that the human route is the ‘best’ one to follow; I think that’s arguable and not likely correct [PS - same comment posted at ver 1].

  92. #92 LJV
    June 3, 2010

    Hey Darren. I can understand your argument, but really don’t agree! You make a great case for us having a civilisation while being physiologically still like Chimpanzees, like our ancestors were. But we aren’t. We are talking convergent evolution here, into a form like modern humans. That is the argument. Following your argument, WE WOULD NOT LOOK LIKE WE DO NOW. But we do. And–I refer to my earlier comment. Troodontids were not birds. They were very bird-like, but they were their own form, and doing very well, while another relative of their’s became what we now now as birds. Why would they have evolved to look like birds as we know them? It’s wrong! (No offense!)
    You may be stuck on the fact that Dinosaurid is a ‘ape-like’ (your words) or human-like shape. We humans don’t look all that ape-like any more. We’ve defiantly gone a little sideways–for all of the evolutionary reasons that both you and I know. If we are talking about convergent evolution, then making the Dinosauroid ‘human-like’ is what it’s all about. But we are not talking anthropomorphising, but speculating that we might be a good design for an intelligent civilised creature. Our success does kind of suggest we might be! I do agree that the Dinosauroid might very well be ‘too human’ in detail, but in general overall principle, not. The McLoughlin Bioparaptor gone more upright might be nearer.
    I think you are missing several points! Very deeply! I think my argument holds, and I’ve definately made it. I think it’s cool to discuss this with you. All the best!

  93. #93 David Marjanović
    June 3, 2010

    Oh — and critics seem to really hate the upright-stance aspect. WELL…It works for us. Chimps can’t walk for miles or run marathons while having good vision all around, but we can. You people seem to think: It can’t have happened before…because we are the only evidence we know for it! Well WE KNOW THAT…THAT IS THE WHOLE DISCUSSION!!! But we are just speculating that…IT COULD BE POSSIBLE!

    Well, no. Why would a horizontal biped evolve into a vertical one? What for? In order to get chronic back pain?

    Apes are already used to holding their bodies vertical. That comes from brachiating. Gibbons walk upright on the very rare occasions that they walk at all — they simply keep their vertical bodies vertical. This is an utterly different starting point from that of a troodontid.

    I do agree that a toothless beak wouldn’t evolve — unless the ornithomimosaurs were to die out. B-)

    Following your argument, WE WOULD NOT LOOK LIKE WE DO NOW.

    I don’t see why.

    We humans don’t look all that ape-like any more.

    By comparison to what? To any dinosaur?

    But we are not talking anthropomorphising, but speculating that we might be a good design for an intelligent civilised creature.

    To the contrary. We’re arguing that we should not make this assumption.

    Our success does kind of suggest we might be!

    You can’t do statistics with a sample size of 1. Our success only shows that it’s possible, not that our body shape is good for it, let alone that anything would evolve it from a totally different starting point.

  94. #94 LJV
    June 3, 2010

    Hi David. Shall I demolish you point-by-point?

    What for? To balance upright a large brain. To distribute weight when carrying things in the arms. So the arms can throw, have better reach and muscle movement, etc. You are right though–they would get back ache IF THEY DIDN’T go more upright while needing to do these things. Thanks for disproving your own point for me.

    Yes, apes can walk upright, somewhat, for a short space of time. Versus our walking the entire world, our ideal method of travel–while holding tools–previously unknown in the world! (Or not!!!–wink, wink–). This fact also proves my point–apes are frankly pretty useless at doing any of the things that are signatures of the evolution from them to us.
    Therefore, from our ape ancestors, we are rather little like an ape–we have gone totally upright. However, interestingly…it could be said that we have evolved into the range of therapod dinosaurs. (Am I guilty of dinothropomorphisation?) We have gone from mostly four legged tree and savannah apes with manual (and feet-ual!) dexterity, to bipedal. Our Dino-sapiens ancestors were bipedal, with free hands, who then would have to get dexterous and clever (but they already had the hands for it anyway!) It could be said that we evolved towards them!!! THE OPPOSITE of Darren’s point that the Dinosauroid was an evolution towards apes (which it ain’t!!!)

    You’re saying we shouldn’t make the assumption that our form is a good one? In that case, what can you say about evolution whatsoever? What statements about anything can you ever make??? Did evolution make a mistake and went all wrong and bad, just in our case???? Do you honestly think it is unreasonable to suggest that our evolutioanry form is a successful one? BY DEFINITION IT IS!!!!
    If we follow your argument, you have no authority to make any statements on evolution at all, as you cannot say what is good at all or not.
    We are SPECULATING about convergent evolution–a phenomena which is well documented.

    In truth though–I’m surprised no-one mentioned a Kangaroo. So I just did. Did I just ruin my own argument? A kanga is kind of what the Dino would have been like half way in between. It travels on two legs–and can travel long distances, with good vision when upright(all supporting my theories). It can throw a hell of a punch!–a precursor to the Dino having better arm muscle range and power (backing up my statements). However, it is not much of a candidate for technological civilisation. I think that proves that it’s the brain-and-hand arms-race that leads it. I think we evolved in an arms race situation, between other competing species, and rivals in our own species. Kind of how Portugul and Spain got out there and discovered the world but China didn’t. That had to–or the other would, and then they would be in trouble! They coudln’t rest on their laurels. It’s why I’m compelled to rebut your statements!!! Intellectual arms race now. I’m sure that the ancestors of our Dinosauroid was in just such a situation.

  95. #95 LJV
    June 3, 2010

    As a side issue, which seems kind of pressing for the topic discussed above and some of the arguments made:

    Can those suggesting that our human form might not the ideal and best way for us to be, or for an intelligent animal to succeed in it’s environment, have a civilisation, and dominate the world, please suggest something better? Speculate on some better things?

    …it’s not easy, huh? Maybe humanoid is somehting good to evolve into after all. As, of course, if it wasn’t, we’d still be Chimpoids.

  96. #96 Zach Miller
    June 3, 2010

    I’ll name a few animals that have the potential for highly-developed intelligence: corvids and dolphins. Neither one is very ape-like, but both show considerable intellect.

  97. #97 Allen Hazen
    June 3, 2010

    LJV:
    Argument for an “anthropomorphic” dinosauroid — one with stance and proportions like humans — depends on a priori assumption that the human plan is better than a more birdlike one. Is this assumption supportable by argument?

    Bipeds, at least when standing, and (I assume) ROUGHLY when walking/running, have their feet below their center of gravity. This can be achieved in a variety of ways: humans do it by having the torso vertical, theropods (and pangolins) do it with the torso more nearly horizontal (pangolins and “classic” theropods using a heavy tail to balance with, most birds by a “bent-kneed” stance that keeps the lower legs near-vertical with a thigh that slopes back to a hip joint aft of the c.o.g.). Is there any reason to think that one of these “design approaches”(*) is superior? If an advantage to one is identified, is there an obvious “work-around” that would let the other compensate? For example: an apparent advantage of the human plan is that it naturally placesw the head — and so the eyes — high off the ground, which is good for keeping an eye on the surrounding environment. But theropods have more neck vertebrae than mammals, so it is easy for them to compensate by having long necks: ostrich.

    So, i don’t yet SEE any good argument for the human plan being so superior to the theropod architecture that a “dinosauroid” would have to evolve toward it.

    (*) I assume that in present company I can use the metaphor of “design” in discussing the optimality of anatomical features without being accused of creationism?

  98. #98 Andreas Johansson
    June 4, 2010

    LJV wrote:

    What for? To balance upright a large brain.

    Is there something special about brains making them harder to balance than, say, tyrannosaur jaws? It’s not like humans heads are all that big.

  99. #99 johannes
    June 4, 2010

    Problems with the bolt-upright, naked Dinosauroid:

    1. Upright stance
    How many Theropods have – or had – a bolt-upright stance when walking on land? Diving birds, like auks, loons, grebes penguins etc., who swim on the water for most of their life and only go on land for brooding, and they usually brood on Islands, steep cliffs or other places hardly accessibly for terrestrial predators. Therizinosaurs might have had a more upright stance than other theropods, but than they were herbivores armed with formidable claws and, to quote Cuvier on the ecologically similar ground sloths, they had neither to pursue nor to run away.
    An small, defenceless theropod that tried to waddle upright in a terrestrial environment would not last long.

    2. Lack of feathers
    Theropods, with their air sacs and hollow bones, are rather light. An dinosauroid about a high as an average man would have a weight of maybe 20 or 30 kg. How many homeothermic animals in this weight class exist that are naked or scaly? Well, maybe armadillos, but they have a rather slow metabolism, so calling them fully homeothermic requires a stretch of imagination.
    Theropods are highly visual animals, so feathers were probably vital for communication, too.

    > What for? To balance upright a large brain. To distribute weight
    > when carrying things in the arms. So the arms can throw, have
    > better reach and muscle movement, etc.

    Troodontids already had a long bony tail for balancing.

  100. #100 LJV
    June 4, 2010

    Hi Everybody.

    Allen–then the arms seal the deal then, right?
    Which is a better ‘plan’? Well, to become a world-dominating, tool-user, higher-thinker, clearly the human one is.
    If we speculate that the Troodons evolved to used tools, then the argument is won by me then. So easy, right?
    Also, think–would the Troodons really REDUCE their upright vision, or the use of their arms (with those good claws on) to become…hunched like that Avi-bird drawing. Do you REALLY THINK THEY WOULD? Some evolution that is. It is just not gonna happen.

    When you talk about a ‘better design’ what do you mean for? You mean for being a ground bird. Obviously the best design for being a bird is a bird. BUT AS A SIDE ISSUE: why does anyone this a Troodon would have evolved to be like a ground bird? That is an argument as far fetched, or from my opinion, more far-fetched, as the Dinosauroid. Troodontids were doing very well as Troodontids. So much so that some people seriously suggest that they could have become more humanoid and had a civilisation! (That’s why we’re debating this.) So why would they become just like a bird as we know them now? THAT is a stretch of the imagination.

    Andreas: True. And so T-Rexes has a big tail/back end. But in advanced culture HANDS and ARMS become the main event. Carrying things. Throwing spears. Manipulating things. And keeping hands and a weapon in front of your head when faced with a predator or a rival.(THAT is as good an argument for moving the head back into a central position, and having the arms able to come forward into maximum range of movement, as anything else!!!!)
    It is a move away from your biting teeth being the main weapon, to your head, with eyes and brain, becoming the most precious thing, and your hands and weapons come up to fight. Interestingly…the kinds of dinosaurs we are considering did have useful hand claws…and could therefore have been moving in this direction already!!!!!!
    If a T-Rex carried anything it wouldn’t do very well. That was an animal for whom arms were not so useful!
    Humans have centred weight, AND arms for maximum range of motion and power, AND well distributed weight when carrying things, and good design for travelling long distance or climbing, all with a eyes on top of a frame as high as it can go for good eyesight. You can’t beat it!!!!

    Johannes. It’s a shame it’s so easy to rebut your comments.
    1. How many PRIMATES OR APES have a bolt-upright stance when walking on land? Only us.(And Bigfoot). So what does that prove?
    The Dino would have evolved it as we did. And in fact it can be said they start in a better position that we did.
    And stop thinking of Troondontids or Dromaeosaurs as birds as we know them. You seem so ignorant. They are Theropods, or their own distinct kind, bird-like, but not birds as we know them. You bird fanatics have just replaced one kind of ignorance–Dinosaurs are big slow reptiles–with another–Dinos are birds birds birds. Both just limited thinking from what we know today–retiles or birds.
    “An small, defenceless theropod that tried to waddle upright in a terrestrial environment would not last long.” you say. They would do better than apes did on the way to becoming us, and we managed it. The species we are talking about already walked bipedal, and had useful arms and hands, which we are specualting could be used even more usefully…then power evolution forward into the Dinosauroid.
    To use their from claws while staying standing, they would have had to go upright anyway. They were heading in the direction of the dinosauroid anyway, it could be suggested!!!!!
    So what with the feathers? If you are suggesting all feathered dinosaurs have hollow bones and air sacs like modern birds, I think you need to take some time out.

    As a side issue: feathers are fine, but there’s a argument that they could have lost them, at least in part, like we did with a lot of hair.

    Finally, for your last roll of the dice:
    ‘Troodontids already had a long bony tail for balancing.’ you say. And the very quote from me that you quoted above it tells why that would go. The arms would be the main event. Tail for balance would need to reduce and weight naturally shift more centrally, when the hand, arm and brain revolution kicks in. Otherwise a even bigger, huger tail and ass woudl be needed–not exactly efficient! This revolution is the basis of this entire discussion.

    Peace y’all!

  101. #101 johannes
    June 4, 2010

    > 1. How many PRIMATES OR APES have a bolt-upright stance when walking
    > on land? Only us.(And Bigfoot). So what does that prove?

    Ever heard of Gibbons? Having a bolt-upright stance might be the only possible way for an ape to walk on the ground and have the hands free for tool use, but animals who started with a radically different anatomy might adopt a radically different solution.

    > And stop thinking of Troondontids or Dromaeosaurs as birds as we
    > know them. You seem so ignorant. They are Theropods, or their own
    > distinct kind, bird-like, but not birds as we know them. You
    > bird fanatics have just replaced one kind of ignorance–Dinosaurs
    > are big slow reptiles–with another–Dinos are birds birds birds.
    > Both just limited thinking from what we know today–retiles or
    > birds.

    Using neoornithine birds as a model might not be the only possible solution, but it’s the most parsimonous one – ever heard of Ockham’s razor? BTW, there are no fundamental differences about dromaeosaurid, troodontid and avialan leg anatomy – if the hind legs are moved to the very rear of the animal to get an bolt-upright stance, you end up with a waddler in all three cases.

    > They would do better than apes did on the way to becoming us, and
    > we managed it.

    I doubt so. Upright primates don’t waddle, and they can’t be quick-killed by piercing their airsac system. A 20-30kg primate can kill you, and if two or three of them cooperate, they can kill a big cat.

    > To use their from claws while staying standing, they would have
    > had to go upright anyway.

    Carnosaurs and dromaeosaurs used the claws on their arms for hunting while retaining an horizontal position.

  102. #102 LJV
    June 4, 2010

    Hi there Johannes. I have heard of gibbons. Very well designed they are for swinging in trees. I’m not sold that they can walk for very long upright, they do bend over too. They do have very big arms for swinging, so seem to stand upright to combine movement, eyesight, and weight distribution. So thanks for helping my other point!

    I’m not adverse to radically different solutions. But Troodons becoming just like ground birds sure isn’t one of them!

    Don’t you see–WE used to be more like other apes. If you treated our ancestor like you do Troodon, you’d say we’d still be some Chimp-Orangutan-Gibbon like thing. You refuse to take the step that is the whole point of the speculation!!! Your thinking does not work on US HUMANS, and our development. How can I be wrong, for your lack of vision!!!

    So you are saying apes are so good at fighting, compared with the bird-like Troodon. What? An argument for Deinonychosaurs not evolving further is that they were too good a predator, with their claws, etc, to have to!!!!! You’ve certainly subverted that. You are saying they might need to, as they were too weak and easily killed!!!! But what could kill by peircing the air sac? A spear….Hmmmmmmmm….

    Your argument that these Dinos going on their back legs would be precarious is stupid. We are talking millions of years of evolution, not that they all went upright one day!!!! A chimpoid walking on it’s back legs across the whole world sure sounds dangerous!!!! Impossible! But we did it, through gradual change. It’s called evolution!!!!!

  103. #103 johannes
    June 4, 2010

    > So you are saying apes are so good at fighting, compared with the
    > bird-like Troodon. What?

    No. I said apes are good at fighting compared with the hypothetical, bolt-upright dinosauroid. Dromaeosaurs probably fought well enough (although troodontids as small-prey specialists/omnivores/herbivores might have been a different matter), but they were very specialised,and for this reason any modifiction – leave alone a very radical one – was likely to diminish their hunting abilities. Becoming plantigrade and loosing the killing claw – not likely. I’m not saying it’s impossible – it’s just fails the parsinomy test.

    > We are talking millions of years of evolution, not that they all
    > went upright one day!!!!

    Actually, you can breed upright ducks, pigeons and other birds within tens or at most hundreds of years, but non of those breeds could survive in the wild.

  104. #104 Zach Miller
    June 4, 2010

    I don’t understand why this conversation is still going on. We may as well be arguing about whether European dragons are archosaurs or lepidosaurs.

  105. #105 LJV
    June 4, 2010

    Because the K/T extinction is unexplained, and there are all the hallmarks of a Cretaceous-end civilisation, Zach.

  106. #106 David Marjanović
    June 4, 2010

    Hi David. Shall I demolish you point-by-point?

    Please do try!

    What for? To balance upright a large brain.

    Then why didn’t Tyrannosaurus walk upright? As Andreas Johansson has said, it had a huge skull with enormous jaw muscles. The head must have weighed a lot.

    To distribute weight when carrying things in the arms.

    That’s what the tail is for.

    So the arms can throw,

    That would require lifting the arms behind the shoulders. Dinosaurs are incapable of that anyway. Put a bird vertically, and it can’t throw. Sure it could evolve, but how would it?

    Never forget how weird we apes are, with our incredible shoulder mobility. It’s not normal, it’s just us (and the sloths and a few other specialized climbers or recent descendants of such climbers).

    have better reach and muscle movement, etc.

    Same again.

    And I haven’t even got to the anatomy of the theropod pelvis yet. It is simply not possible to make the thighs parallel to the tail, because this would overshorten several muscles so they wouldn’t work anymore and would give other muscles a very unfavorable angle of insertion. Moreover, if you load such a tortured construction with weight, something breaks; the weight-bearing part of the pelvis is simply elsewhere than where it would be needed for a vertical body.

    And where would the long, stiff tail go? Stick into the ground?

    You are right though–they would get back ache IF THEY DIDN’T go more upright while needing to do these things. Thanks for disproving your own point for me.

    We are the ones who get back pain from holding our backs vertical. That’s simply not what vertebral columns are built for.

    Yes, apes can walk upright, somewhat, for a short space of time.

    Gibbons walk upright whenever they walk, orang-utans most of that time. They just don’t walk much in the first place. Instead, they spend their time hanging in the trees and holding their bodies… vertically.

    We have gone from mostly four legged tree and savannah apes

    No, we do not descend from quadrupedal savannah apes. There has never been a quadrupedal savannah ape (I suppose the baboons were simply there first). We descend from upright (brachiating and walking) woodland apes.

    You’re saying we shouldn’t make the assumption that our form is a good one? In that case, what can you say about evolution whatsoever? What statements about anything can you ever make??? Did evolution make a mistake and went all wrong and bad, just in our case???? Do you honestly think it is unreasonable to suggest that our evolutioanry form is a successful one? BY DEFINITION IT IS!!!!

    Calm down a little.

    Our shape is a feasible one. That’s all that can be said from a sample size of 1. The theropod shape is a highly successful one, as can be told from the hundreds of species (not all of them theropods) that have shared it over the last 230 million years.

    You make a jump from “feasible” to “successful”. You equate the two. That isn’t warranted by the data.

    I’m surprised no-one mentioned a Kangaroo. So I just did. Did I just ruin my own argument? A kanga is kind of what the Dino would have been like half way in between. It travels on two legs–and can travel long distances, with good vision when upright

    Kangaroo tails are pathetic. Not for mammalian measures, but for dinosaur measures. A kangaroo would have serious trouble trying to stand horizontally and not falling over.

    That’s because kangaroos descend from mammals with even punier tails. Dinosaurs simply have a different starting point.

    (all supporting my theories).

    A theory is something bigger, like the theory of evolution by mutation, selection & drift, or the theory of general relativity… call yours hypotheses or speculations.

    I think that proves

    This phrase is a contradiction in terms. Proof isn’t subjective.

    I think we evolved in an arms race situation, between other competing species, and rivals in our own species.

    You equate competition with arms races. That’s wrong. Learn more about evolutionary ecology.

    Kind of how Portugul and Spain got out there and discovered the world but China didn’t. That had to–or the other would, and then they would be in trouble! They coudln’t rest on their laurels.

    Whut?

    Portugal & Spain on the one hand and China on the other didn’t know anything about each other at that time. What’s more, they didn’t have any effects on each other. That’s not what competition looks like.

    It’s why I’m compelled to rebut your statements!!! Intellectual arms race now.

    The real reason you keep going is that you’re in love with your ideas and have got all protective about them.

    That’s the very first thing a scientist avoids after getting up in the morning. Take a giant hammer and trounce your most cherished ideas. Then take whichever ones are left standing, and publish them so that other people can help you trounce them. I’m serious. That’s how science works. I’ve published four papers, I’m speaking from experience.

    I’m sure that the ancestors of our Dinosauroid was in just such a situation.

    Translation: you emotionally like the idea that the hypothetical ancestors of the speculative dinosauroid were in such a situation.

    How many Theropods have – or had – a bolt-upright stance when walking on land? Diving birds, like auks, loons, grebes penguins etc.

    All of them cheat: they already have very short tails, and they hold their very, very, very short thighs horizontal when the body is vertical.

    If we speculate that the Troodons evolved to used tools, then the argument is won by me then.

    LOL. Everyone uses tools, including crows and some Galápagos finch or other.

    Also, think–would the Troodons really REDUCE their upright vision, or the use of their arms (with those good claws on) to become…hunched like that Avi-bird drawing. Do you REALLY THINK THEY WOULD?

    “Hunched”???

    They already were like that.

    It’s normal for dinosaurs to hold the body horizontal. That’s what troodontids did. This Avisapiens thing differs from troodontids only in having a shorter neck and a beak, that’s all.

    Which is a better ‘plan’? Well, to become a world-dominating, tool-user, higher-thinker, clearly the human one is.

    So you’re saying that you must already be upright so that you can become a world-dominating species?

    Because in that case, the troodontids were out of luck and were incapable of evolving into world dominators. :-|

    in advanced culture HANDS and ARMS become the main event. Carrying things. Throwing spears. Manipulating things.

    Says who?

    Yes, I know full well that it all sounds fairly compelling. It’s just that “sounds compelling” is not a scientific argument. You need some evidence for your claims.

    We’re waiting.

    And keeping hands and a weapon in front of your head when faced with a predator or a rival.

    Just bend the long neck back. That’s what birds do.

    Interestingly…the kinds of dinosaurs we are considering did have useful hand claws…and could therefore have been moving in this direction already!!!!!!

    Their ancestors had already had such claws for the last 170 million years. Why do you pick out the troodontids when you could be talking about the coelophysoids instead?

    (…And… six exclamation marks? Are you bipolar or something?)

    If a T-Rex carried anything it wouldn’t do very well. That was an animal for whom arms were not so useful!

    Those arms were incredibly strong, and the hands were very large. You seem not to be familiar with… anatomy in general, actually.

    Humans have [...] good design for travelling long distance

    ROTFL!

    Dude, that’s only true if you only compare us to other primates.

    Horses and antelopes are adapted to walking very long distances with very little energy expenditure. Humans? With those ridiculously clunky legs? You must be kidding.

    How many PRIMATES OR APES have a bolt-upright stance when walking on land? Only us.(And Bigfoot).

    1) Apes are primates. “Primates or apes” is a contradiction.

    2) All apes can adopt a bolt-upright stance when walking on land; and many do it all the time (the several species of gibbons, both species of orang-utan, us, and the extinct Oreopithecus).

    The species we are talking about already walked bipedal, and had useful arms and hands

    Then why would it change a running system? That’s what I don’t get.

    To use their from claws while staying standing, they would have had to go upright anyway.

    Or, you know, just reach forward.

    …which they were already able to do.

    If you are suggesting all feathered dinosaurs have hollow bones and air sacs like modern birds, I think you need to take some time out.

    It’s rather remarkable that you actively defend your lack of knowledge.

    I have heard of gibbons. Very well designed they are for swinging in trees. I’m not sold that they can walk for very long upright

    They don’t ever walk any other way.

    They just don’t walk much to begin with!

    I’m not adverse to radically different solutions. But Troodons becoming just like ground birds sure isn’t one of them!

    They already were that way.

    If you treated our ancestor like you do Troodon, you’d say we’d still be some Chimp-Orangutan-Gibbon like thing.

    We are. We are to a much greater extent than you seem to keep in mind.

    A chimpoid walking on it’s back legs across the whole world sure sounds dangerous!!!! Impossible!

    Why? It already happened before — just not with the whole world. I’m again talking about Oreopithecus, which is 10 million years old.

    Because the K/T extinction is unexplained,

    You must have been sleeping for the last twenty years. The K-Pg* boundary mass extinction event is the best-explained mass extinction event of them all. It’s understood in remarkable detail.

    * There is no Tertiary anymore. Pg is for Paleogene.

    and there are all the hallmarks of a Cretaceous-end civilisation

    Name one.

  107. #107 Zach Miller
    June 4, 2010

    Besides, Star Trek: Voyager taught us that lambeosaurs evolved into hominoid-like creatures and took to the stars long before the asteroid hit. That episode was awesome, by the way.

  108. #108 LJV
    June 4, 2010

    Hey there David. I do have to admit you win. I have seen the error of my ways. I am a reformed character.

    I would however have to pick you up on some general points. I would say that proof is always subjective. Sorry. Fact is that every scientific discovery is proved wrong/superceded as knowledge advances. But the scientists of a certain era just cave and accept–and then vigourously defend the old outdated ‘truth.’ I have to say that scientists are the most precious of all people about ideas!!!! Their lives, careers, livelihoods and reputations depend on it. And big ideas that caught on for no good reason are extremely difficult for scientists to unaccept. (Is that a word? It is now!). Like…the Big Bang…that stupid Chixlub crater extinction idea(ha!)…and evolution.

    (Just kidding about evolution.)

    But, in all, thanks for taking the time to enlighten me. I am honestly a changed man.

    And on the Spain/Portugul/China thing–OBVIOUSLY I was saying that the two Europeans were in a race with each other, where as the once vastly more advanced and powerful China lost out. That was the comparison. You seemed unable to follow an inference? Are you autistic/mentally challenged/suffering from Alzimers? SEE, I can call names. How dare you call me bipolar! (!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!)

    I do have to pick you up on the Cretaceous-end event however. It’s still up in the air, jack! The bolide strike theory is a dud.

    What would be the hallmarks of our civilisation in the future? Decrease in species worldwide over thousands of years. Large number of farmed herbavore bones found. Weird carbon spheres and metals found in the environment. General climate change killing off species, poisoning the sea, causing mass species loss. DOES THIS SOUND FAMILIAR?
    All the hallmarks of our civilisation in the geologic record are seen at the end of the Cretaceous.
    Maybe it was a bent-over birdman that did it, but some Mother###### sure did.

    Thanks for everything. LJV

  109. #109 Allen Hazen
    June 4, 2010

    David Marjanovic-
    (I meant to reply to LJV, but you seem to have convinced him that thee is no good reason to think that a hypothetical “dinosauroid” would have evolved an upright, humanoid, form.)
    There’s nothing wrong with saying “I thinkthat proves”. PROOF can be as objective as you want (hey, I’m a logician by trade, and I think proofs are utterly objective), but one’s opinion of the success of a supposed proof is still… one’s opinion.

    Johannes- You say “there are no fundamental differences about dromaeosaurid, troodontid and avialan leg anatomy.” Is this right? Typical avialan stance has the femur at a much lower angle (more nearly horizontal) than that of such “classic” theropods as Tyrannosaurus, and I had assumed that dromaeosaurids, with their long tails for balance, would have resembled them rather than avialans in this respect. Was I too hasty in my assumption?

  110. #110 David Marjanović
    June 5, 2010

    I would say that proof is always subjective. Sorry. Fact is that every scientific discovery is proved wrong/superceded as knowledge advances.

    Scientists simply don’t call such things “proof”, or at least most don’t. The word is extremely rare in scientific papers. Scientists tend to bend over backwards to say “evidence” or “data” instead of “proof” and “demonstrate”, “show”, “suggest” or “strongly suggest” instead of “prove”. Little if anything in science ever equals a mathematical or logical proof.

    But the scientists of a certain era just cave and accept–and then vigourously defend the old outdated ‘truth.’ I have to say that scientists are the most precious of all people about ideas!!!! Their lives, careers, livelihoods and reputations depend on it.

    :-D :-D :-D :-D :-D :-D :-D :-D :-D :-D :-D

    Oh man. :-D

    Let me walk you through it step by step.

    Universities, museums etc. want to hire and promote the best scientists. Which ones are the best ones? How do you measure the quality of a scientist?

    The most common way is to count how often their publications are cited by later publications, especially those by other people. If something is wrong, it’s going to be cited by one or two later publications which show that it’s wrong, and then it’ll be forgotten; if it’s some kind of major breakthrough, it’ll be cited and again.

    The easiest way to get cited is to show that a widely held idea is wrong.

    Scientists are paid for attacking and destroying textbook wisdom. Even — no, especially — the Nobel Prizes are rewards for this attitude. Scientists who only publish papers entitled “The 304th confirmation of what everyone already knew” will… no, they won’t even get such papers published, because almmost all journal editors would reject the manuscript as too boring! Scientific journals live off publishing breathtaking breakthroughs.

    And big ideas that caught on for no good reason are extremely difficult for scientists to unaccept. (Is that a word? It is now!). Like…the Big Bang…

    Come on. What’s your explanation for the microwave background?

    that stupid Chixlub crater extinction idea(ha!)…

    What’s stupid about that? An impact of that size is like a gihugrongous explosion. It causes a plasma blast; puts lots of water vapor, rock fragments, carbon dioxide, and sulfur dioxide into the air; ignites lots of vegetation the world over, meaning lots of soot; there’s now some evidence that it hit an oil field, too; and so on and so forth. All that is simple physics and chemistry. We expect such an event to cause a mass extinction, and — surprise, surprise — we find a mass extinction in the rocks from exactly that time.

    Also, Chicxulub. Chick-shoo-loob. The X is “sh”.

    And Portugal, with “ahl”, not with “ool”, at the end.

    OBVIOUSLY I was saying that the two Europeans were in a race with each other, where as the once vastly more advanced and powerful China lost out. That was the comparison.

    That wasn’t obvious at all from the way you wrote it.

    Are you autistic/mentally challenged/suffering from Alz[he]imers? SEE, I can call names. How dare you call me bipolar! (!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!)

    I do, in fact, have several symptoms of what used to be called Asperger’s “syndrome”.

    “Dare”?

    “Call names”?

    It’s not an insult, it’s a diagnosis. Come on! There’s nothing wrong with being bipolar! Tens of millions of people are, and it’s no fault of their own. I asked because you use ALL-CAPS a lot (you did know that writing in all-caps is considered SCREAMING on the Internet, didn’t you?) and because you drown everything in exclamation and question marks — that would fit a manic phase. You put twenty-two exclamation marks in that parenthesis.

    What would be the hallmarks of our civilisation in the future? Decrease in species worldwide over thousands of years. Large number of farmed herbavore bones found. Weird carbon spheres and metals found in the environment. General climate change killing off species, poisoning the sea, causing mass species loss. DOES THIS SOUND FAMILIAR?

    A decrease over thousands of years is not found. For decades, people thought they were seeing one, but that was because of uneven sampling and too crude statistics. Several papers have been correcting this since 1993, and they find there was no gradual decline. The mass extinction was at least as short as the temporal resolution of the rock record.

    Large numbers of herbivores? You’re referring to Triceratops in the mid-southern quarter of western North America, right? Show me such a thing worldwide, and you might have a point. So far, what we see is no more surprising than gnu herds in the Serengeti.

    “Weird carbon spheres and metals”? They’re not just any weird carbon spheres and metals. They’re exactly the ones that are found in asteroids, plus the ones that are produced by really large wildfires and the like. Since we already know there was a huge impact (or how else do you explain that hole in Mexico, and why it’s a bit elliptic rather than circular?), we don’t need any other explanation, do we.

    General climate change? What general climate change? There’s no evidence for any, except for changed rainfall patterns for tens of thousands of years after the impact, exactly what’s expected when hundreds of cubic kilometers of seawater are suddenly vaporized.

    Poisoning the sea? What evidence is there for the presence of any poison? All I can see so far is evidence for acid rain, as expected when hundreds of cubic kilometers of dolomite and anhydrite are vaporized.

  111. #111 LJV
    June 5, 2010

    A would say the measure of a good scientist is how much funding they can bring in. The easiest way to get cited is to solve a problem in a new way without breaking the overall paradigm, that then catches on in the general media. Scientific publications refuse to publish anything that they feel will make them look bad and devalue their own credibility, and others are unwilling to peer-assess.

    Background radiation isn’t a problem. The horison problem is. It was a bounce that unified it out. Bounces. Maybe in higher dimensions, a slingshot universe. The Big Bang caught on, as it fits with western cultural expectations of one big start to everything–as do fears of a big end, full-stop. Meteorite strike theories provide this. Flavor of the month. (Or past few decades.)

    As a matter of fact, there are carbon spheres as would be seen from industry. The charcoal, as woudl be expected from mass forest fires, is nowhere to be seen.

    Hadrosaurs was the issue. A lot of them.

    It is strange how frogs survived, but freshwater sharks didn’t.

    There have been other big strikes, and no mass extinction. Attempts to match up earlier mass-extinctions with previous big strikes have pittifully, embarassingly failed.

    I think the Chixulub crater is where a Dino particle-physics installation went KA-BOOOM!!!!!!!!!!!

    Haha!!! All the best!

  112. #112 Zach Miller
    June 6, 2010

    Wow. Just…wow. Okay, two things. Neither one directed at LJV, but one directed at David:

    1) Why does Tet Zoo provide such magnetism for cranks?

    2) Dave, I’ve read a few papers now that discount acid rain being a factor in the immediate aftermath of the impact. I’m not saying they’re incorrect, as I’ve also read a few papers that support acid rain (and even one suggesting that acid rain provided a selective force in favor birds). Anyway, the acid rain thing seems to bounce around. Is there a definitive paper on the subject that you’d recommend? I’d like to read it. Thanks.

  113. #113 David Marjanović
    June 6, 2010

    A would say the measure of a good scientist is how much funding they can bring in.

    1) That doesn’t measure the quality of a scientist, it measures the quality of a fundraiser. Why should it be assumed that good researchers are automatically good fundraisers and vice versa? Hey, there are very good scientists who can’t even teach.

    2) How much money it’s even possible to bring in depends a lot on the field. Minor advance in genetics that has some hope of being one day applied to cancer therapy? Big Pharma comes in and pours a few million on it. Major breakthrough in comparative amphibian anatomy? Crickets chirp.

    3) The US is the exception, not the rule. In many other countries, scientists get a fixed salary from their institution. They don’t depend on grants for a living, and their institutions don’t gain anything if the scientists bring in more money (except a bit of reputation maybe — but they don’t compete with each other in the first place). Scientists who work in the US complain regularly about how much time they have to invest in writing grant proposals — a grant proposal is like a fairly big paper.

    The easiest way to get cited is to solve a problem in a new way without breaking the overall paradigm, that then catches on in the general media.

    The easiest way to get cited a lot is to destroy the overall paradigm based on lots of good evidence.

    Who cares about the general media? Almost everything they write about science is wrong. I never learn about discoveries in my field from the general media.

    Scientific publications refuse to publish anything that they feel will make them look bad and devalue their own credibility, and others are unwilling to peer-assess.

    What do you mean by “unwilling to peer-assess”? Do you mean there are people who refuse to review a manuscript even if they have the time necessary for it?

    (OK, I’ve read about one who always refuses to review anything because scientists aren’t paid for reviewing manuscripts. But, logical though this stance is, it makes him a lone crank de facto.)

    It was a bounce that unified it out. Bounces. Maybe in higher dimensions, a slingshot universe.

    1) Evidence, please.
    2) Is it even possible to find evidence that would distinguish a bang from a bounce?

    The Big Bang caught on, as it fits with western cultural expectations of one big start to everything–as do fears of a big end, full-stop. Meteorite strike theories provide this. Flavor of the month. (Or past few decades.)

    You’re committing the common logical fallacy of “it’s popular, so it must be wrong”.

    As a matter of fact, there are carbon spheres as would be seen from industry.

    Details, please.

    The charcoal, as woudl be expected from mass forest fires, is nowhere to be seen.

    Soot is seen. All around the world. Just below the fungal spike and the fern spike.

    Hadrosaurs was the issue. A lot of them.

    Why are they stranger than all the bovids on today’s savannas & steppes?

    It is strange how frogs survived, but freshwater sharks didn’t.

    Aren’t the freshwater sharks an issue that is entirely restricted to western North America? How much of their lives did they really spend in freshwater? If they spawned in the sea, there’s your explanation.

    Plus, we don’t know to a great extent how hard the frogs were hit. For instance, there were ceratophryids in Madagascar in the Maastrichtian, and nowadays there aren’t — but Madagascar has no known terrestrial fossil record between the Maastrichtian and the Pleistocene or so.

    There have been other big strikes, and no mass extinction.

    There haven’t been any of anywhere near this size that aren’t associated with a mass extinction. Well, in the Phanerozoic at least — lack of data before that.

    The Devonian-Carboniferous boundary (Hangenberg) event is a very good candidate for an impact-caused mass extinction. The first paper to notice was published in the 1960s, it was just ignored till the late 1990s…

    I think the Chi[c]xulub crater is where a Dino particle-physics installation went KA-BOOOM!!!!!!!!!!!

    I know you’re joking, but it’s a bad joke. The entire site was, like, 200 m underwater. Why build such a thing offshore, and so far offshore at that?

    Why does Tet Zoo provide such magnetism for cranks?

    Ha! You must be new to ScienceBlogs! The medicine and climatology blogs swim in cranks. Tet Zoo is remarkably crank-poor.

    Anyway, the acid rain thing seems to bounce around.

    I think that’s because of local soil conditions. The acid rain of the 1960s to 80s wreaked havoc on lakes in Scandinavia (granite), but had no effect in the Alps (limestone).

    I recommend the entirety of Gregory Retallack’s work on fossil soils (paleosols). Most of it isn’t about the K-Pg mass extinction, but some is…

  114. #114 Darren Naish
    June 6, 2010

    On point 1 (Zach’s comment), I have a very strong dislike of people who ‘dumb down’ the comments to unbelievable levels of idiocy; I regard it as a sort of vandalism (John Wilkins says on his blog “This is my living-room, so don’t piss on the carpet”). An annoyingly persistent commenter who insists that birds are pterosaurs provides an example additional to that given by ‘LJV’. But, so long as I write about controversial/fringe stuff (like hypothetical smart dinosaurs and cryptozoology), there’s no avoiding this sort of attention. I believe in maintaining free speech and have decided only to draw the line when the commenters are (1) genuinely nasty and offensive (Mihalda) or (2) besiege the site with more than 10 comments a day.

    The possibility of end-Maastrichtian acid rain resulting from the bolide impact was most recently supported in…

    Gulick, S. P. J., Barton, P. J. Christeson, G. L., Morgan, J. V., McDonald, M., Mendoza-Cervantes, K., Pearson, Z. F., Surendra, A., Urrutia-Fucugauchi, J., Vermeesch, P. M. & Warner, M. R. 2008. Importance of pre-impact crustal structure for the asymmetry of the Chicxulub impact crater. Nature Geoscience 1, 131–135.

  115. #115 S/Mick
    June 6, 2010

    Such long posts. An argument 65 millions years in the making!

    It is interesting, and many strong arguments for the standard orthodoxy can be made (the strike extinction hypothesis) but those supporting it must acknowledge that there are many experts who have never agreed with it. Similarly to that mention of the Big Bang. I understand that most experts now know the Big Bang is wrong–it just does not fulfil the evidence. But we do not have a neat explaination to replace it, and that void is painful. Scientists seem religious in their refusal to give up a big theory and admit it probably isn’t right, and that we just don’t know. What would we teach school kids, for a start?
    I am not saying the impact theory is as wobbly as the Big Bang–but at least the Big Bang was virtually totally accepted once, although now mostly isn’t (But you wouldn’t knwo that from the general scientific reporting.) However with the impact theory, a lot of experts in the field never did support it, and still don’t. This is not something to be dismissed.

    If David refuses to truck any criticism of the Big Bang, it doesn’t cast any his support of any other theory very highly, unfortunately.

    I would really like to hear a controversial theory that David thinks is true. That would be interesting.
    I would really like to hear a well-accepted, but perhaps now under-fire theory, that LJV thinks is actually correct.
    That would be good.

  116. #116 David Marjanović
    June 7, 2010

    I understand that most experts now know the Big Bang is wrong–it just does not fulfil the evidence.

    Uh… what?

    Perhaps you have a very narrow definition of “Big Bang”? Please explain.

    What would we teach school kids, for a start?

    Who is “we”? Neither highschool teachers nor, unfortunately, highschool textbook authors are scientists.

    I would really like to hear a controversial theory that David thinks is true. That would be interesting.

    It would also be utterly and completely irrelevant.

    But define “theory” (I use that term only for very big, overarching ideas), and I might be able to provide examples anyway…

    I like the “fecund universes” idea (“cosmological natural selection”) very much, but I’m way underqualified to judge it.

    However with the impact theory, a lot of experts in the field never did support it, and still don’t. This is not something to be dismissed.

    It absolutely is. Science simply isn’t about people, it’s about evidence.

    Besides, who doesn’t support it, except Keller and friends, who don’t take into account that the primary crater walls collapsed?

    And now I’ll leave for a scientific conference. I may not have Internet access before Friday evening or later.

  117. #117 johannes
    June 7, 2010

    > Typical avialan stance has the femur at a much lower angle (more
    > nearly horizontal) than that of such “classic” theropods as
    > Tyrannosaurus, and I had assumed that dromaeosaurids, with their
    > long tails for balance, would have resembled them rather than
    > avialans in this respect. Was I too hasty in my assumption?

    Allen, by “fundamental differences” I meant something so obvious that even a lay person – or somebody who had technical training, but isn’t an expert on maniraptoran theropods – can recognice the difference at first sight.

  118. #118 LJV
    June 7, 2010

    I don’t know. An old theory? Well…I find myself defending Freud, when it is fashionable to run him down these days. Not every theory he had might be correct–but you can analyse him and his theories, to show what made him think that way! My argument–Don’t you realize he originated the whole climate, the whole way of thinking like this! Analysis. He’s a huge figure. But he’s not a religious figure, so you don’t have to agree with everything he says.
    Hope that helps! Farewell!!!!

  119. #119 David Marjanović
    June 7, 2010

    (Free Internet at an airport! Can you believe it!)

    I find myself defending Freud

    I’m sure S/Mick had scientific theories in mind… :-)

    Don’t you realize he originated the whole climate, the whole way of thinking like this!

    Of course he did. But his method — talk to a handful of turn-of-the-century upperclass women, extrapolate wildly, don’t bother testing the extrapolations — isn’t scientific, and many of his results are wrong.

  120. #120 Jerzy
    June 7, 2010

    To rewrite something said about 1000 of times:

    To run in upright position, like humans do, pelvis must be narrow, which squeezes the birth canal. That is why human women have so much difficulties at childbirth.

    So, fast locomotion with upright abdomen is VERY BAD for giving birth to young with large brains or for laying hard-shelled eggs. We, hominids, actually have very strong developmental constraint build in, which few people except medicians realize.

    BTW, it also constrains human evolution. Homo floresiensis MUST have small brain, instead of value predicted from some crappy model derived from fossil elephants. Also, hominids could never evolve proportions with giant brains and undeveloped bodies and still breed naturally.

  121. #121 Jerzy
    June 7, 2010

    So, find me one tetrapod other than human which runs when keeping the body upright!

  122. #122 S/Mick
    June 8, 2010

    It’s notable that pretty much all of the argument, that goes on and on and on and on, above, is about whether it is possible for a dinosaur species to ever go completely upright like Man, and the details of the physiology of one version of a predicted intelligent Troodon versus another. But the fact that a dinosaur species could attain intelligence and perhaps civilisation like us is not the big controverial thing debated. This is interesting/surprising.

  123. #123 Rio Nagare
    December 8, 2010

    Wow… that Magee guy sounds like something else. Starts off with some interesting, even plausible (though highly speculative) ideas… and then H.P. Lovecraft’s communicating telepathically with The Dinosaur Empire from Getter Robo.

    People always complain about movies today being the same old shit. Hollywood needs to hire some pseudoscience cranks as screenwriters, it’d be a new golden age.

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