Warmblooded dinosaurs–Dr. Robert Bakker–Part 1

Warmblooded dinosaurs–Dr. Robert Bakker–Part 1

By Rod Myers

By Rod Myers


On Feb. 24, I interviewed dinosaur paleontologist Dr. Robert Bakker at Burpee Natural History Museum’s Paleofest. Dr. Bakker is the author of several books, including The Dinosaur Heresies. He is also adjunct curator of Glenrock Museum’s Paleontology Foundation and curator of the Dr. Robert Bakker Learning Center. Both establishments are located in Glenrock, Wyoming.

Dr. Bakker, more than anyone else, has helped change the image of the dinosaurs from slow-moving, dimwitted, coldblooded creatures to agile, intelligent, warmblooded creatures that dominated the earth for millions of years. Dr. Bakker has long proposed that birds descended from dinosaurs, an idea which now has a ton of evidence to support it and is currently readily accepted by the scientific community.

Question: With the Loch Ness monster sightings and a large dinosaur-like creature reported in the African Congo, do you think any dinosaurs may have escaped extinction to survive in remote pockets of the earth today?

R. Bakker: No, except for birds.

Q: In the movie Jurassic Park II (The Lost World), there were some very small dinosaurs in several scenes. Were there a lot of small dinosaurs during the dinosaur era?

RB: No, most dinosaurs were not small; they failed miserably at being small, where most lizards, frogs, birds and mammals do very well as small creatures, and they are represented by thousands of currently living species. Small dinosaurs weighed 40 to 50 pounds. The very small dinosaurs in the Jurassic Park movie may not have been full grown. The only known remains of that species was not of an adult. Again, I don’t know why dinosaurs failed at being small. It’s a mystery to me.

Q: Flowering plants came to prominence during the dinosaurs’ reign, so how did dinosaurs affect plant evolution?

RB: Many of the dinosaurs were huge, and most were herbivores, so they must have had a tremendous impact on plants. Look at the large impact elephants have on trees and other plant life today. Conifers are more primitive and have been around much longer than flowering plants, but they don’t do well after being browsed by herbivores. But browsing seems to actually help flowering plants and their status in their ecosystems. Dinosaurs must have trimmed more plants than any class of creatures in the history of the world.

Q: Some scientists past and present give mammals much more credit than dinosaurs for helping to shape the world’s ecosystems. In this light, is there a bias against dinosaurs?

RB: Yes, dinosaurs were thought to have less of an impact because they were thought to be slow-moving, dimwitted, coldblooded reptiles when, in fact, they were fast-moving, warmblooded creatures that were the most intelligent critters of their time.

Q: When people talk about dinosaurs, they often bring up crocodiles. What physical features did dinosaurs have in common with crocodiles?

RB: Dinosaurs are relatives of crocodiles and alligators. Dinosaurs have hands with five fingers, and only three of the fingers have claws, just like crocodile and alligator hands. Only dinosaurs and crocodiles and crocodile relatives have hands like this. Dinosaurs, crocodiles, alligators and birds all have gizzards. Dinosaurs have hind legs that are very stiff, which is very birdlike, and the dinosaurs’ hind leg movement is very birdlike. Also, dinosaur necks were bent like birds’ necks. Getting back to crocodiles, crocodiles are coldblooded, but interestingly at one time, they were warmblooded.

To be continued…

Rod Myers is a local resident with an interest in nature and the environment. He is a member of the Rockford Amateur Astronomers Club, the Sinnissippi Audubon Society, Wild Ones Natural Landscapers and the Planetary Society.

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