Dr Brian Stableford is a biology graduate and lecturer in sociology at the University of Reading, England, but is better known as a writer of science fiction. He writes in The Science in Science Fiction that …certain difficulties stand in the way of the ever popular lizard-men who figure so frequently as science fictional villains. Reptiles, having no internal temperature control, are rather limited in the amount of brain activity they can indulge in.
That may be true of lizard-men but not of dinosaur-men or dinosauroids, to use the word coined by Dale Russell of the National Museum of Natural Sciences in Ottawa, Canada. Dinosauroids are intelligent creatures evolved from dinosaurs, and because dinosaurs had a physiology superior to lizards and in many ways superior to mammals, Dr Stableford's complaint does not hold water. Our anthroposaur and Russell's dinosauroid are Dr Stableford's lizard-men precisely because they are all lizard-men could be.
Anthroposaur is the better term: it is more descriptive than Russell's word, and Russell's conception of dinosaur evolution was vastly different from that considered here. Russell imagined how dinosaurs might have evolved had they survived the Cretaceous-Tertiary (K-T) extinction and remained alive until today. They didn't survive, so they couldn't evolve. But the anthroposaurs could have evolved before the K-T catastrophe, as we shall see.
Stableford informally lists the characteristics of an intelligent organism. If human beings did not walk upright, freeing their forelimbs to develop hands instead of paws, they could not have developed the kind of intelligence they have. Similarly intelligent beings must be sociable, because intelligence arises out of the need to communicate. The fact that most mammals and birds show a degree of intelligence not seen in reptiles is connected with the fact that they generally have more complicated social relationships, especially in connection with the rearing of young. The more sociable animals are, and the more able they are to interfere with and transform their environment, the more intelligent they become. Stableford's characteristics tally respectably with those deduced from our study of mankind's emergence.
The ones which we have some chance of assessing rationally 65 million years after the death of the dinosaurs other than warm-bloodedness, are: intelligent terrestrial animals are bipedal, have an erect stance; are equipped with grasping hands having sensitive fingers and opposable thumbs; are equipped with binocular vision; own a large brain; are subject to social and parental guidance in childhood; are able to speak; are aggressive.
How do the dinosaurs measure up?
The feathered dinosaur, the archaeopteryx, certainly had grasping hands, as did its near relatives the coelurosaurs, and surely used them for grasping insects and climbing trees. A related but later dinosaur that seemed to have evolved a high degree of coordination of hands and arms was the deinonychus. Its hands [were] better adapted for grasping and holding than any other dinosaur (Desmond). Deinonychus had long, grasping hands with wrist joints that rotated so that the hands could turn towards each other enabling the animal to grasp its prey in both hands. Wilford's comment is that only humans and certain other mammals can do this.
The Late Cretaceous, the period we are chiefly interested in, was full of examples. Some descendants of deinonychus formed a whole group called the dromaeosaurs all of which had opposable fingers and were obviously capable of a high degree of coordination.
One of the descendants of deinonychus was a dinosaur discovered by Dale Russell called the stenonychosaurus. This animal had manipulating fingers, but also had a complex of advanced features, including binocular vision, that make it rather special. Plainly some dinosaurs combined a bipedal gait with sensitive, manipulative hands.
Binocular vision in tyrannosaurus was facilitated by the snout being very narrow so as not to impair its line of sight. But tyrannosaurus, as we have seen, had atrophied arms and the real evolutionary advantage comes when the binocular vision is combined with skillful hands. The stenonychosaurus had binocular vision combined with manipulative hands and fingers. Its eyes were large and well developed like the eyes of the ostrich (which has the largest eyes of any terrestrial creature alive today). This in itself is an interesting feature because it suggests that these dinosaurs were nocturnal or that they had evolved not long before from a nocturnal form.
Two points from this. First, it is further evidence, should anyone need convincing, that the dinosaurs were warm-blooded, because cold-blooded animals must be inactive at night. Second, what would they be hunting at night time that needed speed, agility, keen vision and grasping hands? None other than our predecessors, the mammals. It was not until the Cretaceous that we find signs that the mammals were hounded even into the night. They were terrorized, moreover, by creatures more cunning than themselves, as Desmond puts it. Yes, the mammals were small, but these dinosaurs were also small by dinosaur standards—stenonychosaurus was only about five feet long including its long tail. Here then is a dinosaur with keen senses, nimble and agile enough to hunt, by night, the supposedly superior mammals!
The popular idea that the dinosaurs were dim witted, with brains no bigger than a ping-pong ball is only partly true. It appertains to the huge sauropods, ceratopsians and some carnosaurs—the dinosaurs well known to the layman. A triceratops' body weighed 9000 times more than its brain, a hadrosaur's body weighed 20,000 times more, and a brontosaurus's weighed 100,000 times more. But it is not true of many others dinosaurs, the ones noted above with the grasping hands and binocular vision, the smaller, agile coelurosaurs and dromaeosaurs that lived late into the Cretaceous period. Knowing what we do about these, it is not so surprising that they had evolved large brains to coordinate their sophisticated movements and vision.
Deinonychus had the odd but effective habit of standing on one leg while slashing its victim with a vicious talon on the other. Such balancing tricks, even accepting that the creature would have its prey firmly in its grip, required remarkable brain development. The descendants of deinonychus, the family of dromaeosaurs, were agile, skilful predators with large brains. Few good fossils have been found but it has been conjectured that they were more common, and more successful, than the fossil record suggests, their habitats not being conducive to fossilization—just like the apes and hominids, mankind's ancestors!
The body to brain ratio of the stenonychosaurus was 1000. This doesn't signal much intelligence compared with a human being whose ratio is about 50, but it is comparable to a living flightless bird like the emu. It is also within a factor of about six of the ratio for a chimpanzee. Yet a bird-mimic dinosaur, the dromiceiomimus, had a brain bigger than an ostrich's.
Pterosaurs were flying dinosaurs. In modern day birds the ability to fly has required substantial development of their brains, particularly in the cerebellum region at the back of the brain and the cerebral region at the front of the brain. The cerebellum controls movement and balance while the cerebral region looks after coordination, both plainly important to a flying creature. The fascinating aspect of the pterosaurs was that their brains had developed exactly these features by convergent evolution. Like birds their olfactory sense had atrophied and instead they had well developed optic lobes. The optic lobes had been pushed by the growth of the cerebellum and cerebral regions to the sides and rear of the brain. Exactly the same had occurred in birds!
Even more similarities between the physiology of pterosaurs and birds could be listed but they are not relevant here. Suffice it to say that some pterosaurs were as small as a sparrow and that would be impossible for a cold-blooded or a naked warm-blooded creature. A cold-blooded vertebrate could hardly have generated the energy needed to fly. External insulation was needed for a warm-blood to maintain its high internal temperature. Pterosaur fossils have been found with clear impressions of fur on them. They must have looked like a cross between a fledgling bird and a bat, and they succeeded in holding their own against the birds for 90 million years until the cataclysm that marked the end of the Cretaceous era. But despite their obvious intelligence and fur coats, bat-like dinosaurs were not principle contenders for the honor of developing any sort of technology.
Dale Russell, in a paper in the Canadian Journal Of Earth Sciences in 1972, discussing the bird-mimic, dromiceiomimus, suggested that parental care seemed likely in animals with such intelligence and with evidence of a social organization. But even Sagan writing in 1977 thought it unlikely that [the dinosaurs] actively protected either eggs or young. Typical reptiles!
Nile crocodiles are reptilian enough but, we've already seen, are caring parents, having quite a sophisticated social and family life: the male is territorial; he courts the female; she builds a nest; she lays about 40 eggs; when the young are ready to hatch they warn mom from the egg using piping sounds audible several yards away; mom carefully digs them out and carries them tenderly in batches in her jaws to a nursery near the river or swamp; while the young learn how to live by hunting frogs and fish, the parents dutifully keep watch over them; after several months they are able to fend for themselves. If cold-blooded crocs are as doting as this why shouldn't warm-blooded dinosaurs have been?
More familiar are birds, which lay eggs and devote an astonishing amount of parental care to them. Bakker tells us that birds are living dinosaurs. If so, dinosaurs must have been just as attentive to their eggs and as indulgent to their hatchlings.
Dinosaur eggs are quite rare. None were found until in midsummer 1923, Roy Chapman Andrews and his team exploring the Gobi desert found nests of dinosaur eggs, some of which contained the fossil embryos of a dinosaur, protoceratops, a precursor of the giant ceratopsians of the Late Cretaceous. Yet eggs have a hard exterior and would be expected to be easily fossilized. When the dinosaur's ancestors emerged from the swamps, one of the advantages they had over their competitors, the amphibians, was the hard exterior of their eggs. Amphibians laid soft eggs like those of modern frogs and newts. These would be unsuitable for an animal that had ambitions of living on dry land. Amphibians had to have water nearby—not so, the dinosaurs. Their hard eggs enclosed a watery fluid in a sac called the amnion. Within this the embryo developed, feeding on its self-contained food supply in the yolk. Foetuses of mammals including humans are similarly enclosed in a sac of amniotic fluid which bursts shortly before birth.
In summer 1978 in Montana, two fossil hunters found a nest of fifteen fossilized baby dinosaurs each about three feet long. They were not hatchlings because their teeth were worn showing that they had been eating for some time. Further work exposed a whole treasure trove of dinosaurs' nests, a veritable hadrosaurs' roost of 300 eggs and over 60 skeletons of dinosaurs of all ages from embryos to adults. The nests, which were about six or seven feet across, were about 20 feet apart leaving sufficient room for the bulky parents to gain access. Some of the nests contained only broken shells, the nestlings presumably having left the nest, but some contained immature skeletons of varying sizes, presumably because the nest had been abandoned for some reason and the young hadrosaurs had starved to death. The physiology of the skeletons confirmed that dinosaur babies grew rapidly from a very small size. The eggs were oval shaped with a maximum dimension of about eight inches, providing enough room for hatchlings only about 15 to 20 inches long. Such small, vulnerable animals, growing rapidly, must have been warm-blooded. The remains often included eight feet long juveniles alongside 20 feet long adults suggesting that parents and young stayed together until the young were mature. The ratio of juveniles to adults seems to have been about two to one.
The following year nests of another dinosaur, the hypsilophodont, were found containing up to two dozen eggs, and about fifteen skeletons of juveniles were found nearby. As John Noble Wilford puts it, dinosaurs ... had a sense of family life and community.
Why had baby dinosaurs not been found before? They had! But the experts had classified them as new species of small dinosaurs rather than seeing them as juveniles of species already identified. Furthermore, mental fix had led dinosaur hunters into looking in particular types of strata to make their finds. These were rocks laid down on lowland plains or in shallow bays or estuaries. The Montana dinosaur colonies were on dryer rockier outcrops where the nests were perhaps safer from predators.
Must all dinosaurs have laid eggs?
Rattlesnakes are even more advanced. They retain their eggs and have even dispensed with a hard shell. The embryo not only gets nutriment from a yolk but also by diffusion of sustenance from the mother across the thin outer membrane of the egg, a support system very suggestive of a placenta. At birth the mother continues to look after the young.
One species of frog, gastrotheca, keeps its young in a pouch until they hatch into tadpoles when they are released into the water, but another species keeps them in its pouch until they emerge as baby frogs.
A West African toad, nectophrynoides, retains its eggs in its oviduct. When the tadpoles hatch they feed upon particles released from the walls of the oviduct and at the next wet season live baby toads are born, the mother having provided a pseudo pond for them within her oviduct.
Amazingly, the coelacanth, a fish thought to have been extinct for 70 million years until found again in 1938, gives birth to live young. This creature is believed not to have evolved in any significant way for hundreds of millions of years indicating that creatures had live offspring before the dinosaurs even appeared on earth.
Following a discovery made by an assistant in 1947 in New Mexico, Edwin Holbert found several fossilized skeletons of a small early dinosaur called coelophysis. Coelophysis was an early type of coelurosaurus living at the end of the Triassic period about 210 million years ago. A remarkable graveyard of these specimens was found in New Mexico. Bones were weathering out of a rock stratum in a hillside and some had been recovered by a collector as long ago as 1881. Thus the species had been known for 60 years but previous specimens had been poor: these were excellent. When the site was rediscovered it was agreed to dig away the overlying strata and look at the layer containing the fossils. An amazing lode of coelophysis bones was found, young and old together. The amazing feature of one of them, Colbert noted, was that it seemed to have inside it the bones of a tiny juvenile. Colbert could not accept the obvious inference that the dinosaur gave birth to live young, especially as the pelvic bones seemed too narrow. He deduced that the baby was actually the adult's last me
Live birth did occur in ichthyosaurs, the dolphin-like dinosaurs. At first, paleontologists, faced with the idea of sea-dinosaurs, thought they must leave the sea to lay their eggs like turtles. But the ichthyosaurs were far too whale-like for that to happen. An ichthyosaur would be no more able to crawl up a beach than a porpoise or a killer whale—on land it would be literally stranded. It also seemed odd that no ichthyosaur eggs could ever be found. Even though masses of ichthyosaur fossils were found at Holzmaden in Germany there were no signs of any eggs. And this despite the discovery of fossilized ichthyosaur droppings (called coproliths) that would plainly have been less suitable for fossilization than eggs.
The answer came from our friend, the noted amateur, Bernard Hauff, who owned those productive quarries in Holzmaden and made a name for himself by the skill he put into the delicate process of extracting the imprint from the rock matrix. He conclusively showed that some of the ichthyosaurs had smaller specimens inside them. As we might expect, this triggered off a controversy about the baby ichthyosaurs. They are not unborn babies but part of the larger creature's last dinner, was the cry. It is far from unknown for vertebrates, especially fish, to eat their own young. The small specimens inside the body of the larger specimen were always facing forwards, in the direction of motion of the larger fossil. If the animal were to be born it would have its head to the rear—animals are always born head first, pronounced the critics. What's more, a swimming creature being pursued and finally swallowed by another would be swallowed tail first and would be bound to be 'head forward' in the predator's stomach.
Hauff countered by showing what the larger ichthyosaurs had had for dinner—mainly a variety of types of swimming shelled molluscs having a lifestyle similar to modern squids.
The sauropods like brontosaurus also could have given birth to live young. Tracks of sauropods indicate that they moved about in groups, if not herds. Bakker has found that dinosaur herds were structured such that the young were protected in the middle by a surrounding circle of adults, showing that the young were evidently cared for after birth, viviparous or otherwise. Yet, if they laid eggs, there are several problems to answer. Did the herd stop in one locality while the eggs hatched? If they did, would not such dim-witted animals trample all over the eggs before they had time to hatch. If not, how did the young rejoin the herd, which had presumably moved on after the egg laying? Furthermore, eggs cannot be larger than a certain maximum size since beyond that size they would either collapse under their own weight or they would have to be so tough that the hatchling would not be able to crack the shell to emerge. The maximum size is small for such huge dinosaurs as brontosaurus and its relatives, which reached 50 tons or more at maturity. Even if the eggs were three feet across like those of the extinct bird, the aepyornis, the hatchlings would be still likely to be crushed underfoot.
All these problems are answered if the young were carried until they had reached a reasonable level of maturity. At birth they would then have been able to keep up with the wanderings of the herd and avoid the clumsy feet of their elders. They would also have been big enough not to lose heat to their surroundings. Bakker believes the sauropods' live young weighed as much as 500 pounds at birth, solving most problems, but if they were smaller the problems remained.
Could sauropods have carried their young in pouches rather like a kangaroo? The problem then is what they could have fed on. Kangaroos are mammals with teats to provide nourishing milk. One assumes that we are on safe ground in believing that not even hot blooded dinosaurs had mammalia! Could the young have snuggled into a pouch near to the sauropod's tail feeding upon the parent's dung? Since they were too small to avoid rapid heat loss, they would also be kept warm by their mother's body heat. The large herbivorous dinosaurs probably had to allow their food to ferment in their stomachs because the cycads and ferns they ate were tough and fibrous. Their droppings would therefore be effectively predigested food for the infants. Many smaller creatures live on the dung of larger ones and some, like rabbits and mole rats, eat their own to make sure no nutrition is wasted. Perhaps some of the many dinosaurs that undoubtedly did lay eggs also carried their young like marsupials, particularly to keep them from dying of heat loss when they were tiny. The upright posture of many dinosaurs is reminiscent of the posture of the kangaroo and wallaby. Though marsupials do not necessarily adopt this erect stance, it might be convenient for erect animals to adopt a marsupial method of protecting their young. Admittedly there has been no quoted instances of this, but the dinosaurs were still vigorously adapting even shortly before their final demise. Is it possible that they anticipated other vertebrate systems for protecting their young, millions of years ago? The marsupial system? The human system?
What of the pterosaurs of the Cretaceous period? Bakker scorns the experts, authors of the most commonly used twentieth-century paleontology textbook. They concluded that the pterosaurs were failures in everything they did. For these experts the pterosaur could not fly and could not walk. Its wings were too floppy and tore too easily. On the ground it was clumsy and ungainly. It is amazing that the poor creatures survived at all, let alone that they existed in large numbers in the Jurassic and Cretaceous periods.
But did they, like birds, look after their young? The pelvis of the female pterosaurs was too narrow to permit live births unless the foetus was born in an immature state. If so its tiny size would have necessitated parental care especially since it would have difficulty keeping warm despite its fur coat. More likely, eggs were laid. A family structure like that of birds would then have been needed, to hatch the eggs, to feed the immature young and to guide them in taking to the wing.
Whether dinosaurs of all types laid eggs or gave birth to live young it is certain that they were often caring parents.
Sounds and Speech
All dinosaurs had sensitive middle ear bones and a notch in their skull where the tight ear drum stretched. Crocodiles and birds, both of which are related to the dinosaurs, have keen hearing so it is not surprising that dinosaurs also had acute hearing. Would they then make sounds? Birds do. And present day crocodiles can recognize each other by night by making a barking noise. There seems no reason to doubt that dinosaurs, known to have acute hearing, would also have done this.
But they had nothing akin to a larynx to enable them to make the sort of speech we do. Why should they? The cetaceans, our whales and porpoises, have sophisticated communication systems based on a host of sounds not made in the human way. Many of the hadrosaurs had distinctive crests protecting their elaborately long nasal passages. Philip Currie of Alberta's Tyrrell Museum suggests that these could have acted as a resonant chamber allowing the hadrosaurs to make sounds rather like a French horn.
It is surmised that Charles Sternberg's edmontosaurus had an inflatable sac on its snout that acted as a resonator enabling calls and signals to be made to other members of the herd to attract them or warn them. Elephant seals have a similar sort of arrangement.
The nesting maiasaur of Montana could have made a deep base like sound by blowing air through its nasal passages.
Tracks of up to six carnivorous dinosaurs all moving in parallel suggests that some of them hunted in packs. If, as Washburn suggested in man, sophisticated communication and language originated to coordinate group hunting activities, intelligent dinosaurs should be looked for among those types that hunted together. Carnivores also had the other attributes of intelligence.
The hadrosaurs which could surely make conspicuous noises were not carnivores but, if herbivores could make sounds, hunting dinosaurs could also have developed a sophisticated range of whistling sounds for communication—like birdsong, perhaps.
Washburn's hunting hypothesis is, of course, far from convincing but, if it were correct, it could apply equally to dinosaurs as to mankind. Plainly, the predatory dinosaurs were aggressive enough, if that were an important attribute for technological success. The skulls of the dinosaurs show that many had very well developed senses. The structure of their ears, indicates excellent hearing and the ability to hear high pitched noises, possibly initially the calls of their young and later the sounds of communication. Brain casts show highly developed olfactory bulbs showing the sense of smell was often good. Large orbits and pronounced optic lobes tell of excellent vision. Some were caring parents possibly having live young, had stereoscopic vision and manipulating hands. Many walked upright and some later dinosaurs had large and growing brains. Some also were fierce hunters and presumably correspondingly aggressive.
Some dinosaurs somewhere had each of the attributes considered necessary for man to evolve. The only conclusion is that some dinosaur somewhere could have had them all and become intelligent before Adam. But how? Could the same feature have evolved twice in vastly different types of animal? Certainly. Features have evolved repeatedly. We have already met several instances, ichthyosaurs and dolphins, for example. The mechanism is convergent evolution.
Compsognathus was a small (two feet long) dinosaur about the weight of a hen from the end of the Jurassic, 140 million years ago. It was clearly fast and could catch nimble creatures as its prey. Its hand only had two digits and its forelimbs were short, putting its grasping abilities in doubt, but in the time period up to the end of the Cretaceous its descendants could have well adapted along the required lines.
Ornitholestes lived about the same time as compsognathus but was bigger and had a more powerful head. Its arms were long and it had three digits two of which were long and the other, the thumb, short but opposed. It would have been quite good at grasping and could have diversified into even better forms.
The coelurosaurs were small, lightly built fast running predators. They had small heads with sharp teeth, moderately long necks and long arms with grasping hands. Animals of this type must have been abundant during the 140 million years reign of the dinosaurs but because of their slightly built physiology they decayed and their bones were scavenged quickly so that few specimens have been found. The dromaeosaurids, which seemed to have evolved from coelurosaurs, lived at the end of the Cretaceous.
The ornithomimosaurs had three digit hands, long arms, large brains and opposed thumbs. Oviraptorosaurs which fall into the same category had grasping hands. Saurornithoidids like stenonychosaurus could have hunted the mammals into the night and sharpened their intelligence against that of our distant ancestors. These dinosaurs were thought by Dale Russell capable of evolving intelligence.
Signs of Life
We retain a Victorian arrogance that we are the pinnacle of God’s achievement, made in His image. Yet it is not impossible that the rocks are warning us that our arrogance is our destruction. God has been here before. That equally arrogant creatures have already destroyed themselves and the world about them. Though it might not be likely, when dinosaurs were recognised not to be cold-blooded, it became conceivable. That is why we are corresponding about it.
Our technological constructions are fragile. Plate tectonics and entropy will destroy virtually everthing we have built in 65 million years. Theirs would have been the same. Even if some artefacts of ceramics or precious metals did survive, would we recognise them? If we found a fossil sparking plug would we identify it as that or would we be reasonable and categorise it as mislocated or a natural curiosity? The clearest signs of their existence, judging from our own experience, would be the mass extinction of species (Mr Wild) and the presence of a layer of heavy metal pollutants (Mr Wilkins).
Speculation about dinosaurs is interesting but we know what we are doing to our own environment yet blithely do nothing about it but talk. I believe humanity is fundamentally flawed. As Tinbergen suggested we have features that were once valuable to survival but, because of the speed of human evolution, have become so ill-fitted to the needs of technological man that they now threaten us. Selfishness, for example, might once have had survival value but now contradicts self-regard by being destructive. We ignore the mass in favour of self though self is of the mass and will die with it. Coddled in our unnatural environment, selfishness has become obsessive. Scientists are cleverer and more analytical than the average man yet are equally selfish. All are somebody’s paid servant and most do what their masters require of them though it be wrong—protecting their comforts at the expense of their grandchildren’s.
Selfishness is just one element of a syndrome which is our dinosaur heritage. We need to identify it. And who can do it other than scientists?
The Dinosaur Heritage and the Extinction of Man
The left brain is generally responsible for rational thinking and the right brain for intuitive. Until about 3000 years ago social rules of behaviour emerged from the right brain which processed one’s experience and returned its findings as dreams thought to be from the gods. Formal societies, writing and eventually technology eschewed intuition and replaced it by the left brain directives of priests and politicians. In the modern world the rational side overwhelms the intuitive side. Witness the hostility of orthodox thinkers to original thinkers. Yet intuition is more likely to give advanced warning of impending problems. Reason cannot accept that anything is wrong until the full chain of logic is evident. Try to question experts or warn politicians, express right brain values and out come the establishment assassins.
The left brain thrives on detail rather than seeing the whole. It ignores the mass in favour of self, even when self is part of the mass and inevitably must suffer with it—obsessive selfishness! We demand ever higher standards of living even though continuous economic growth must destroy the planet and us with it. Today's industrialist or politician cannot be squeamish about pollution, a few broken animals or people. Left brain logic demands more efficiency, higher productivity, less interference. Yet it is the left hemisphere that is truly illogical—it will kill us all. The left brain analyzes in academic detail the tiger's fur, tail, muscles, camouflage, claws and teeth. It debates endlessly about their functions and importance. But it cannot see the whole animal licking its lips! Only the right brain sees the whole tiger and the danger it poses!
The syndrome might be more deeply seated. The reptilian (R-)complex in the forebrain is present in all vertebrates above the reptiles but not in amphibians or fish. It may be the source of behaviour which is irrational and inappropriate in technological society—aggression, territoriality, social hierarchy and ritual. Worse! Are we are set in primitive behaviour patterns because the R-complex has taken control of the left brain like some mad hacker's computer virus? Is the left brain controlled by our most primeval instincts? Has our intuition all the while been trying to warn us? The right brain is mute and can only give images, mystical impressions and dreams. Nightmares, monsters, apparitions, hauntings and the menagerie of paranormal creatures that loom out of the night, might be right brain warnings of a threat from something intangible... because it is within. Subliminal awareness of UFO abductions could be the right brain's way of saying that a real monster is indeed abducting us—inside our heads! Will it destroy us as it did the dinosaurs?
Given warm-blooded animals, intelligence could have evolved repeatedly—a conclusion directly contradicting Gould's. On passing a certain threshold intelligence would evolve increasingly rapidly. If the dinosaurs reached the threshold, they could have become intelligent in a geologically short time. Using human evolution as our only example, we can estimate the timescale using the molecular clock.
The molecular clock depends upon natural selection being neutral towards most genes. A beneficial gene survives in a population, but so does a gene that has no particular affect for good or ill. Only genes which confer manifestly disadvantageous characteristics die out through natural selection. Genes continually mutate at a fairly constant rate and, providing that the mutant genes are not harmful, they will spread among a population in which interbreeding freely occurs. Each species therefore has a common gene pool. Once species have separated, their genes no longer mix, there is no longer a common gene pool. If a mutant gene now arises in an animal of one species, it will spread among that species but it cannot spread into the other. The longer the time since two species separated, the greater the difference in genetic and protein structure. Comparing genetic and protein differences between species, and knowing the rate at which the differences multiply, allows us to calculate when speciation occurred.
In 1967, using a molecular dating technique, Victor Sarich and Allan Wilson showed that man diverged from the African apes as little as five million years ago. For orthodox paleontologists this was far too short a time. It spoilt their theories and put us too close for the good of their egos to the apes. They abused Sarich and Wilson and ignored their results for years. Gribbon and Cherfas say it was as if theoretical astronomers had ignored the discovery of pulsars. Yet only a few million years ago—perhaps seven million from more recent work—our ancestors were the creatures from which also descended present day chimpanzees. From that time a line branched off the common stock that became human. Mankind apparently reached the threshold of intelligence within perhaps the last five million years.
If intelligent dinosaurs existed, they must have made a big impression on their world, just as we have. Where then are their ruins, their relics and their kitchen middens?
Consider the following questions. Out of about 12 billion human people that have ever lived on the earth, how many have left any mark? What remains of their accumulated experience? Out of an estimated 80 million species of living organisms on the earth today how many will be classified before they become extinct? How many will leave any fossil remains? How many of the millions of insect species? How many of the estimated 8600 birds? How many of the 4000 mammals? Hardly any! Most living things, intelligent or otherwise do not leave a trace. Species that are constructed mainly of soft tissues which decay quickly effectively leave no fossils. Species that live in environments unconducive to fossilization leave few fossils. Species that evolve and die off quickly leave few remains. Technological civilization only began two hundred years ago and might end in the next hundred. Human civilization, hugely impressive to us, is only an oily smear in the geological record.
In the millions of years that the dinosaurs dominated the earth, thousands of dinosaur species, billions of individuals, have left no trace. If just one of those species came to prominence very rapidly in evolutionary terms, as mankind has, perhaps making no significant mark until its last few centuries, would much be seen in the rocks 65 million years later? I think not, even if anyone were looking for signs of intelligence. And who's looking? Not the paleontologists!
Mostly it is culled from popular but authoritative works of science, many written in the last decade, like Bakker's book, The Dinosaur Heresies. Anecdotal evidence fills gaps where studies have been inadequate.
Independent writers and researchers in the last couple of decades have put together sufficient to challenge the paleontological dogmatists. Unorthodox proposals deserve attention if only to provoke the experts to justify their conventional arguments and thus periodically to force them into an honest reappraisal. My speculations might stimulate a more open-minded look at past events. Anomalies in old rock strata might be taken seriously and accurately dated rather than ignored. Curious artifacts and impressions in very ancient rocks, of the Cretaceous Period particularly, might be studied systematically to see whether an adequate theory can be constructed to explain them.
More importantly we should examine the parallels between the present time and mass extinctions of the Cretaceous. Tens of millions of years hence, geologists will simply see a sudden reduction in diversity terminating the Tertiary epoch. Will they notice that a couple of inches of sediment contain traces of one species of ape which briefly exploded in numbers prior to the mass extinction? It is doubtful.
Is the mass extinction of species the only legacy we wish to leave, as our sapient dinosaurian antecedents did? If my probe into time's vaults motivates enough people to disown our dinosaur heritage and to stop our assault on the planet, we might yet, unlike the dinosaurs, survive.
Why didn"t [the dinosaurs] evolve larger cerebral systems? Why didn"t they eventually produce super-intelligent species capable of making stone tools?
Why did not "Man" land on the moon in the Cretaceous?
If the dinosaurs had not all been mysteriously extinguished some sixty-five million years ago, would the saurornithoides have continued to evolve into increasingly intelligent forms?
Some dinosaurs did develop intelligence and by so doing caused the Cretaceous terminal extinction, just as an insensitive ape developed intelligence at the end of the Tertiary and created the mass extinction that marks the end of that geological era. Though the direct evidence is sparse, the circumstantial evidence is compelling. The thesis is not self-evidently false, as, say, the idea of a flat earth is. Today we consider it evident that the earth is round and revolves round the Sun—but these ideas have only become accepted in the last few hundred years.
The movement of the continents, continental drift, noted by Wegener sixty years ago seems obvious to us all now, indeed it was probably obvious to any child studying a map of the world decades before Wegener, but because continents were so massive and the experts could not think of a mechanism by which they could move, no one was willing to ask the question must not South America and Africa once have been joined?
We might find ourselves realizing simultaneously that the Anthroposaur preceded us, and that we have just stumbled over the precipice of our own extinction.
Mankind has adopted its position of global domination in just five million years. The dinosaurs, we have seen, were warm-blooded, active creatures and usurped the rule of the Thecodonts in only five million years. Mechanisms exist for species to evolve at astonishingly fast rates. On average a species of dinosaur did not last for more than two or three million years before becoming extinct or evolving into a new species. There is no reason why one of the dinosaurs should not have evolved intelligence during the last five million years or so of the Cretaceous Period.
Brain and Intelligence
Fossil dinosaurs have been found with quite remarkably large brains... for dinosaurs. One authority says that triceratops had a brain weighing a kilogram, a fair size compared with our 1.5 kilograms, though its body weight was 9000 kg compared with our 70 kg. Struthiomimus had a brain to body ratio similar to that of a modern day ostrich—1:1000. And, though brain size is obviously a general measure of intelligence, there is no way of telling whether the brain of an extinct class of animals functioned in quite the same way as those of animals with which we are familiar. We cannot be certain that modern creatures with larger brains are more intelligent than the smaller brained dinosaurs. A higher metabolic rate, more active brains, faster synapses, sharper nerve impulses could all contribute to greater efficiency of the brain even though it were smaller than ours.
Of course, size is presumably directly related to memory capacity but, for humans, much of the brain seems redundant, evolution looks to have overshot—a result, perhaps, of sexual selection or a saltagen in a high quantum state. It might not have done for dinosaurs whose memory capacity could have been better adjusted to the capabilities of their brains overall.
Yes the explosive evolution did occur. Mankind has evolved from being a user of crude rock tools to our present level of civilization in just one million years. It must be possible that these alert creatures did the same. How would that have looked in the fossil record, especially bearing in mind that the chosen habitat of these dinosaurs made their remains scarce, just as remains of early man are scarce and, of modern chimpanzees, non-existent?
Dale Russell and the Dinosauroid
It had all the ingredients of success that we see later in the development of the apes.
He believes that stenonychosaurs were the chief predators on Cretaceous mammals and that there must have been quite a lot of them because, by the end of the Cretaceous, there were a lot of mammals, though they were small. Nevertheless few have been found as fossils, just as complete fossil mammals from that period are also rare. The fossil record is so limited that it is a pitiful reflection of past life, as Norman Myers puts it:
Russell deduced the appearance of a Stenonychosaurus that had evolved unhampered by disasters until the 20th century. A model of the creature, a dinosauroid, is on display in Ottawa. The conception of the dinosauroid was based upon convergent evolution. Russell extrapolated trends observable in the dinosaurs like Stenonychosaurus to beyond their extinction. By the 20th century, Russell believes their brain size would have been within the human range. To accommodate it its skull would have expanded and its face would probably have flattened. The long dinosaur neck would have shortened to bear more comfortably the weight of its brain. Consequently its tail would have been lost since it would not have been needed to counterpoise the neck and head.
He assumed live births and, rather illogically, that the dinosauroid would therefore have needed a navel. The young, though, were thought likely to have been fed on regurgitated food and the creature would not have had any mammalia. Communication would have sounded similar to birdsong. Besides these conjectured features he supposes there would be characteristics typical of dinosaurs such as scaly skin, large oval eyes with vertically slit pupils, absence of external sex organs and a three fingered hand, one digit of which would be opposed.
Absence of external sex organs—possibly, but, although the tuatara lizard of New Zealand which is very similar to lizards from 200 million years ago has no penis, the marine iguanas of the Galapagos islands have them. Most reptiles and birds procreate by pushing together their cloacae which are openings in the body doubling up as a sexual tract and an anus. This seems a bit of a hit and miss affair to the intelligent mammal and, if Bakker"s arguments are to mean anything, one would have thought that hot-blooded, sexually active dinosaurs would have evolved a more certain method of procreation. However, if birds are examples of latter day dinosaurs, Russell could be correct, and birds don’t seem to have any trouble in procreating.
Nevertheless, if convergent evolution had required a convergence of shape appropriate for a thinking creature, the upright stance of the human and the ventro-ventral mode of copulation it induces, might have dictated the evolution of a penis in the dinosauroid, if not in other dinosaurs.
A Model of the Possible
Russell was almost at pains to emphasize that his guesses were conservative—and that must be true. 65 million years, even in a thought experiment, seems too long for an active, warm-blooded creature already up and running to need to develop what mammals did in the same period of time from a standing start. With the mechanisms for rapid change at the disposal of evolution such a long time scale seems unnecessary if not silly. It is more likely that intelligence evolved before the whole dinosaurian dynasty came to an end.
Russell"s conjectures give us a model, not of the impossible but of the possible. Not of the hypothetical dinosauroid today but the actual anthroposaur of 65 million years ago.
Compared with the hoofed animals of the veldt, hyenas are slow creatures. They can run at about 40 mph compared with 50 mph for a wildebeest. They have therefore learned to be clever team hunters. Often lions scavenge from hyenas rather than the other way around. The hyaena seems to decide upon the type of prey it wants in advance then uses appropriate tactics for that creature. David Attenborough tells us that they are happy to hunt wildebeest but will ignore them if they have decided that today’s dinner is to be zebra. Prairie dogs, communal animals that live in towns go in for horticulture. They cut down certain plants, not to eat—they do not like the taste of them—but to create more space for those they do like. Every now and then they leave a territory for no other reason than to let it lie fallow to recover, then they return to it. Finally Sea otters are intelligent enough to use a tool, such as a suitable pebble, to break shellfish from the rocks and to crack open their shells. All evolved since the death of the dinosaurs.
Yet surely the selective pressure on the mammals in the world of the dinosaurs would have been more favorable to the development of the mammalian neocortex. Intelligence is a weapon in the evolutionary arms race between predator and prey. The mammals were the oppressed animals, oppressed by the superior dinosaurs. Plainly, if the mammals were more intelligent than the dinosaurs then they should have been able to outwit them and usurp the dinosaur’s dominant status. They didn’t so they weren’t. The mammals, including the primates, could not capitalize on intelligence in the Cretaceous because there already were intelligent creatures around quite capable of holding their own against other dinosaurs let alone the pretensions of early primates or any other mammal. Just as mankind eliminated the intelligent opposition, the anthroposaurs would have eliminated any other animal, dinosaur or mammal, that seemed likely to become a rival.
Where were the Primosaurs?
What was in the trees when the dinosaurs were on the ground? From the fossil record there seem to be no dinosaurs adapted for tree dwelling in the sense that such creatures as monkeys, apes or even squirrels are today. Yet, if there were no dinosaurs in the trees, the mammals would have had a perfectly safe niche, would surely have evolved into it and, if they merely had to find a place free of dinosaurs to realize their destiny, developed brains much earlier.
Fossils of predatory dinosaurs are rare—Robert Bakker claims that he only came across a few fragments of them in six years of field work—but fossils of forest species are rarer. Fossil chimpanzees, from much closer times, are totally non-existent. We have only five fossil skeletons of Archaeopteryx which presumably spent some of its time in trees. Fossils of pterosaurs are mainly of marine species which swooped around the edges of the sea.
The problem with tree dwellers is that their dead bodies drop to the forest floor where they are most unlikely to leave a fossil record. The forest is rich in fungi and bacteria that thrive in the damp and the shade and the little that is not eaten by scavengers decays in a short time. And the bones? — the forest floor is acidic so that even the bones do not survive long enough to leave a trace. So there is no fossil evidence to suggest what was in the trees when dinosaurs roamed the ground.
Experts tell us that, since mammals, like tree shrews, were there, dinosaurs were not—otherwise trees would not have been safe for them. But, if the dinosaurs were afraid of heights, how did the pterosaurs and archaeopteryx learn to fly? It is absurd that dinosaurs should not have adapted to life in the trees and the pterosaurs and archaeopteryx prove it.
Lagosuchus, thought to be an ancestor of the pterodactyls, was a primitive dinosaur that must have climbed trees. Today, Komodo dragon hatchlings live in trees to avoid predators. Many other cold-blooded animals climb trees, the many species of tree frog for instance. Why should there not have been hosts of dinosaur monkeys and dinosaur apes? Perhaps there were but, as we have seen, because of their habitat they did not fossilize easily: a whole fauna of advanced dinosaurs about which we know nothing. Is it so stupid then to guess that one of them might have followed a pathway to intelligence just as we did?
The Importance of Flowers
There is a parallel between the explosive radiation of dinosaurian grazers like hadrosaurs and ceratopsians from the middle Cretaceous and the explosion of mammalian grazers about 11 million years ago.
The mid-Cretaceous explosion was a result of the breakthrough of the flowering plants about 117 million years ago just as the more recent case was due to the emergence of the grasses 24 million years ago. Along with the antelopes, horses, cows and elephants of the latter period, taking advantage of the new food stuff, came the intelligent mammal, man. Lucy walked by that East African lakeside just as cattle and horses were evolving 3.7 million years ago. Since then, man has continued to evolve rapidly, though the animals that originally shared the savannah with him, such as the antelopes, have not.
Can the parallel be extended? Did an intelligent dinosaur emerge from the Cretaceous forests, a part of the explosive radiation of dinosaurs resulting from the earlier emergence of the flowering plants as a new source of food, and, like man, evolve exceedingly rapidly? If an aquatic phase gave man many useful features during his development, is it possible that some dinosaurs lived aquatically for awhile and developed a comparable streamlined shape and upright stance as well as other useful features?
With the plucking of the hadrosaurs from the experts‘ approved place in the swamps, to be placed in herds on mossy plains, there seemed to be no semi-aquatic dinosaurs remaining at the end of the Cretaceous. Animals such as the ichthyosaurs and the plesiosaurs, which the experts do not classify as dinosaurs, were fully aquatic, and the ichthyosaurs might have died out before then anyway. Yet, for 20 million years, sea-levels had been higher than at any time in the last 200 million years. There were vast areas of shallow continental seas. Surely a lot of species must have dipped their toes in the water and some of them must have tarried awhile.
Cycles of Inundation
Gribbon and Cherfas attribute the growth of intelligence in man to the succession of ice ages over the last few million years. This sequence of glacials and interglacials subjected the hominid apes to repeated intense selective pressure putting a premium on adaptability, versatility and intelligence. Though there were no ice ages at the end of the Cretaceous period, we noted that the sea level was high. It fell considerably and quickly 95 million years ago and again 67 million years ago, but over several million years, about 80 million years ago, there was a shallower dip. With large amounts of the continental shelves covered in water, fluctuations of only a few meters could successively expose then inundate large areas of land.
The normal tidal range today can make the sea disappear over the horizon at low tide in those places where the beach shelves at only a slight angle. The slow shallow dip observed in the sea level when it was at its height possibly signifies thousands of such incursions of the ocean. Imagine a Spring tide that went out for ten thousand years before it returned. Then it stayed in for ten thousand years. This would put strong selection pressure on the species living on the flat coastal lowlands or on low islands.
Possible confirmation is the formation of oil bearing rocks at that time. Half of our present oil reserves stem from that period, the result of organic matter settling to the bottom of shallow stagnant seas. Incursions of the ocean would have trapped the organic layers between thin layers of mud eventually giving rise to oil shales from which oil was squeezed under pressure.
Further evidence of such cycles comes from the striated appearance of Cretaceous chalk cliffs. Is it possible that fluctuations in sea level provided the evolutionary stimulus for the anthroposaurs that Gribbon and Cherfas argue was provided by ice ages in the evolution of mankind? Did the same fluctuations force a brachiating dromaeosaur to turn to the water temporarily, giving it a range of advantages just as Morgan argues for mankind"s predecessor?
A Final Mystery
A final mystery looms large in the story of [dinosaur] predator and prey, Robert Bakker tells us. It is that, unlike the Ankylosaurs and the Ceratopsians, the Hadrosaurs had no obvious means of defence against ferocious predators like the tyrannosaurs. They had no whiplike tails, long claws, or any type of spike or plate. And their limbs were shorter and designed for lower top speeds than were those of their gracefully long-legged hunters. How did these normally slow moving, unarmed browsers escape their enemies?An intriguing question.
Obviously the various weapons of the other creatures were advantageous or they would not have evolved. Why then did the Hadrosaurs not need them? Orthodoxy has it that they were caring parents and apparently moved about in herds, traits that could have given them sufficient advantage. Their strong social sense and protective instinct would have allowed them to proliferate into immense herds wandering the continents. There is safety in numbers as we see on what remains of the African veldt. Perhaps they just sacrificed the old, the infirm and the weak for the benefit of the rest.
Hadrosaurs showed explosive diversification shortly after descending from the Iguanodonts towards the end of the Cretaceous. Extreme diversification depends on genetic variation. The greater the extremes, the more variation is implied and vice versa. Dinosaur extremes indicated great genetic variation which accounted for their ability to adapt and to radiate into vacated niches.
The reason they could not cope with the events of 65 million years ago whereas they had successively coped splendidly with previous mass extinctions, the so-called Kimmeridgian turnover of 145 million years ago, the Aptian turnover of 117 million years ago and the Cenomanian turnover of 95 million years ago, was that in the few million years before the final act they had lost variation and had become inflexibly standardized
The last few million years of the Cretaceous showed a marked reduction in diversity of dinosaur species: the earlier vigorous adaptive radiation of the hadrosaurs and the ceratopsians similarly gave way to a yielding of variety. For the last two million years of the Period, a single genus of each—Saurolophus and Triceratops respectively—dominated the landscape, although they did so in vast numbers.
No gradual environmental change is going to eliminate genetic variation in genus after genus of dinosaurs. That very variation will guarantee adaptation to the changes by natural selection before genetic variation has been significantly pruned. The motive power of evolution is expansion of diversity with environmental change. The dinosaurs" loss of variety is much more characteristic of the loss of variety in species we are seeing today—by unnatural selection—at the hand of man.
Caches of bones of a single species are regarded by paleoanthropologists as suggesting husbandry. In the development of man, various cultures seemed to concentrate on ibex, horses, reindeer and so on. Could it be that ceratopsians and hadrosaurs were actually domestic animals like cows and sheep kept for food?