"The Dinosaur Heresies" - Highlights

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La Striata
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"The Dinosaur Heresies" - Highlights

Post by La Striata » Wed Jun 10, 2015 1:39 am

Written by pastor and paleontologist Robert T. Bakker in 1986, this is the book that inspired Michael Crichton to write Jurassic Park (indeed, the character Alan Grant was based on Bakker). It was the first book aimed at the general public to openly argue for the theory of agile, warm-blooded, intelligent dinosaurs and their connection to birds:

If we measured success by longevity, then dinosaurs must rank as the number one success story in the history of land life. Not only did dinosaurs exercise an airtight monopoly as large land animals, they kept their commanding position for an extraordinary span of time - 130 million years. Our own human species is no more than a hundred thousand years old. And our own zoological class, the Mammalia, the clan of of warm-blooded furry creatures, has ruled the land ecosystem for only seventy million years. True, the dinosaurs are extinct, but we ought to be careful in judging them inferior to our own kind. Who can say that the human system will last another thousand years, let alone a hundred million? Who can predict that our Class Mammalia will rule for another hundred thousand millennia? - p. 16

Humans are proud of themselves. The guiding principle of the modern age is "Man is the measure of all things." And our bodies have excited physiologists and philosophers to a profound awe of the basic mammalian design. But the history of the dinosaurs should teach us some humility... If our fundamental mammalian mode of adaptation was superior to the dinosaurs', then history should record the meteoric rise of the mammals and the eclipse of the dinosaurs. Our own Class Mammalia did not seize the dominant position in life on land. Instead, the mammal clan was but one of many separate evolutionary families that succeeded as species only by taking refuge in small body size during the Age of Dinosaurs. As long as there were dinosaurs, a full 130 million years, remember, the warm-blooded league of furry mammals produced no species bigger than a cat. - p. 17

Twentieth-century paleontologists have fallen into the bad habit of reconstructing the dinosaurs' life functions by using crocodiles as a living model. But the earliest researchers of the nineteenth century proved beyond a doubt that the dinosaurs' powerful hind limbs must have operated like the limbs of gigantic birds. - p. 20

Dinosaurs are not lizards, and vice versa. Lizards are scaley reptiles of an ancient bloodline. The oldest lizards antedate the earliest dinosaurs by a full thirty million years. A few large lizards, such as the man-eating Komodo dragon, have been called "relicts of the dinosaur age", but this phrase is historically incorrect. No lizard ever evolved the birdlike characteristics peculiar to each and every dinosaur. A big lizard never resembled a small dinosaur except for a few inconsequential details of the teeth. Lizards never walk with the erect, long-striding gait that distinguishes the dinosaurlike ground birds today or the birdlike dinosaurs of the Mesozoic. - p. 22-23

No one, either in the nineteenth century or the twentieth, has ever built a persuasive case proving that dinosaurs as a whole were more like reptilian crocodiles than warm-blooded birds. No one has done this because it can't be done. - p. 27

Giant predator lizards can't evolve in the presence of big mammal predators. So the lesson is that mammals suppress much of the evolutionary potential of modern lizards. Is the Komodo dragon a good working model of how dinosaurs succeeded? Absolutely not. Dinosaurs suppressed the evolutionary potential of mammals, not the other way around. And dinosaurs carried out this supression everywhere, on all the continents, not merely on a few tiny tropical isles. Dinosaurs succeeded where Komodo dragons fail. - p. 81

The message from the tropics is unambiguous: To be a successful big land animal, you must cope with mammals, and to cope with mammals you must be a mammal yourself, or at least have metabolism as high as a mammal's. And big mammals have suppressed big reptiles in our tropics for the last sixty-five million years. So how can the dinosaurs' success over mammals' be explained? By assuming that dinosaurs had low-energy metabolic styles? Not very likely. - p. 101

Zoos mislead their visitors by the way the species are housed. Birds are in the Bird House, of course, and crocodiles are always segregated to the Reptile House with the other naked-skinned, scale-covered brutes. So the average visitor leaves the zoo firmly persuaded that crocodilians are reptiles while birds are an entirely different group defined by "unreptilian" characteristics - feathers and flight. But a turkey's body and a croc's body laid out on a lab bench would present startling evidence of how wrong the zoos are once the two stomachs were cut into. The anatomy of their gizzards is strong evidence that crocodilians and birds are closely related and should be housed together in zoological classification, if not in zoo buildings. - p. 127

Both birds and crocs have the identical plan to their specialized gizzard apparatus, and this type of internal food processor is absent in the other "reptiles" - lizards, snakes, and turtles. - p. 127

By themselves, brontosaur gizzards don't indicate how much or what these dinosaurs ate each day; other lines of evidence must be employed to explore these questions. But brontosaur gizzards and teeth together indicate what brontosaurs did not eat. They didn't eat soft, mushy vegetation. Birds that subsist entirely on soft fruits don't possess muscular gizzards and don't use hard pebbles for their gizzard linings. Soft, watery food requires only a short, simply constructed gut - with just enough contractile force to squeeze out all the juices.
Brontosaur teeth, moreover, confirm the heretical idea that they ate a tough vegetable diet.
If the brontosaurs dined only on soft water plants, then very little wear would be found on their teeth. But in fact the teeth of Camarasaurus, Brachiosaurus, and their kin manifest very severe wear, which could only have been produced by tough or gritty food
- p. 136-137

Duckbills were supposedly croc-style swimmers, moving by strong, easy, side-to-side flexures of their tail. Therefore, the optimal design would feature vertical tail spines. But duckbill spines all slanted strongly backward, exactly as in land-living lizards, not in swimmers.
Another problem in the duckbill's swimming equipment lies in the profile of the tail. The deepest part of the croc's tail is close to the end, because the end swings through a wider arc than does the base in moving side to side. Thus the tail is deepest where it can do the most good in pushing against the water. All powerful tail-scullers have such deep tail ends. But duckbill tails were deepest at the hips and become progressively narrower from top-to-bottom toward the tip - another caudal feature nearly totally maladapted for its primary function.
- p. 153

The sum of evolutionary evidence is thoroughly feather. In nearly every modification of the evolutionary process made in the duckbills as they developed from their dryosaur ancestors, the duckbills suffered a diminution of their swimming potential. Their fore- and hind paws became shorter and more compact, not longer and more widely spread. Their tails got weaker and stiffer. Far from being the best, the duckbills must have been the clumsiest and slowest swimmers in all the Dinosauria. If pressed, they probably could paddle slowly from one riverbanck to another. The central theme of their bodily evolution was indeed specialized - orthodox theory was right on that point - but the direction of specialization was landward. These dinosaurs were specialized for a totally terrestrial existence. - p. 154-155

There may be some ground for believing that brontosaurs ate... soft foods. If the possibility of gizzard stones is ignored, the brontosaurs' dentition does seem little equipped to deal with meals of tougher plants. But there are no ground whatsoever for believing it of duckbills. The mouth of a duckbill dinosaur contained one of the efficient cranial Cusinarts in land-vertebrate history. Duckbill teeth and jaws were incomparable grinders, designed to cope with foods right inside the duckbill's oral compartment. - p. 160-161

No living reptile has cheeks. But no living reptile has grinding teeth anything remotely resembling those of a duckbill. If the duckbills could have evolved such unreptilian teeth, why couldn't they have evolved unreptilian teeth? - p. 165
I cannot see that wolves are in any way nobler in character than hyenas- Frederick Selous

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