Warmblooded dinosaurs–Dr. Robert Bakker–Part 2
By By Rod Myers
By Rod Myers
This is the second part of a personal interview with the noted paleontologist and author, who participated in Paleofest at Rockfords Burpee Natural History Museum. Rod Myers continues his questions.
Q: Do you believe dinosaurs are related to birds?
R. Bakker: There are a bunch of ornithologists that dont like it, but their dear birds are a branch of the dinosaur family tree, and the evidence is overwhelming.
Q: Were the pterodactyls closely related to birds?
RB: Not nearly as close to birds as velociraptors were. However, if you were to examine pterodactyl bones, youd find them similar to bird bones. They also had big brains like birds do. Pterodactyls, for the most part, were not small, whereas most birds are small and do very well as small creatures.
Q: Were most pterodactyls shore birdlike?
RB: That appears to be true, but the kind of habitat where you find shore birds is great for preserving bones; the sediment is fine grained in lagoons, which is great for preserving delicate pterodactyl bones. Pterodactyls were in other habitats, but the conditions in those habitats were too harsh for preserving birdlike bones. Its interesting, but most of the early birds were not small like most are today. Archaeopteryx was good sized, bigger than your average pigeon.
Q: Did the flying dinosaurs have hairs for thermal protection?
RB: Yes, hairs and feather-like hairs all over their body.
Q: The common loon has been around for many years. Do you know how long, and are there other birds that have been around just long or longer?
RB: Loons go back at least 40 million years, as did grebes, while ducks and flamingos go way back. All birds come from a very bushy dinosaur family tree. Birds first appeared 50 million years ago and have proliferated ever since.
Q: Was the flamingo of 50 million years ago pink like the ones of today?
RB: Good question, but I dont have the answer. Feather pigments were not preserved. I know the flamingos in zoos today have to be fed supplements to keep their feathers pink because they cant feed them the naturally occurring shrimp that they eat in the wild. There are chemicals in the shrimp that make flamingo feathers pink.
Q: Why do you use the hawk moth in your book Dinosaur Heresies to show body heat conservation?
RB: The hawk moth is a coldblooded insect that flies quickly and nectars from flowers like hummingbirds. Many people in the town I live mistake them for hummingbirds. Hawk moths must maintain a constant warm temperature to fly as much and as quick as they do. They are able to do this by consuming a lot of nectar and by having hairlike structures over most of their body, and by the way, most species are active at night when its colder. This is similar to flying dinosaurs who grew hair and/or featherlike hairs to help maintain body heat.
Q: Its amazing to see parallel evolution, isnt it?
Q: Do you believe that an asteroid collision with earth caused the sudden extinction of dinosaurs?
RB: No, because there was no mass kill of frog and salamander species. Amphibians are very sensitive to sudden chills, which would have happened if a larger asteroid hit. Presumably, it would have sent up huge amounts of earth, forming a dust cloud that would block out the sun, maybe for years. That would have chilled the earth considerably, and frogs and salamanders would have died, but they didnt. That much dust in the atmosphere would also cause acid rain, which also kills amphibians, but they didnt die. Hardly anyone believes in the asteroid theory anymore. The dinosaur die-off was worldwide, and it was probably caused by multiple diseases. Also, the extinctions were not sudden–it took many years.