Dinosaurs are an integral part of Earth’s history. And although our knowledge about them is still limited, the last decades have taught us a lot. So Curious presents to you what we know about these living things that populated our planet even 66 million years ago.
Reasons to Learn About Dinosaurs
Although it is unlikely that the average reader of this blog will ask me this type of question, and even if no one has asked me this question so far, every time my research receives a media response, as in the case of the recent article on evolution dimensional along the Avian stem, I identify myself with the phantom “ordinary man” and wonder: what is the use of what we do? That is, what is the use of dinosaur paleontology in terms of social utility? What does this discipline bring to the majority of mankind, almost entirely outside our circle of enthusiasts and researchers? After all, research published in large-scale journals read not only by paleontologists, implies that that discovery, in some way, must have “universal” implications and repercussions. What kind?
Others before me have formulated the question – in various ways – and have given themselves some answers. In many cases, I have read answers that dinosaur paleontology “provides information on the place of man in natural history” or that “brings young people closer to science” and other answers that would identify some “social utility” in our paleontological research focused on dinosaurs.
I find it ridiculous to think (and write) that dinosaur paleontology is being pursued to answer existential questions such as “man’s place in nature”. Those kinds of existential questions, if they make sense, are, if anything, pursued by anthropology, not by dinosaur paleontology. No dinosaur paleontologist searches for fossils, analyzes, publishes studies, with the underlying reason for answering that question. Furthermore, none of us do paleontological research because doing so would bring young people closer to science. I do not know that paleontology was born with a crypto-pedagogical intent. Furthermore, to assume that dinosaurs “serve” the cause of science (for young people) would reduce the discipline to a “Trojan horse” for children. How many of us would like to devote their lives to creating fetishes with which to plague young people in such a subtle way? In any case, experience shows me that if a young person is passionate about science, he will be regardless of dinosaurs. Scientific passion is what brings kids closer to dinosaurs, not the other way around. And if science does not interest, dinosaurs will not work as a tow, as demonstrated by the proliferation of “monster-dinosaurs” in video games, movies and comics, where there is very little scientific. A monster enthusiast (vaguely dinosaur-shaped) will not become a scientist because of monsters. Furthermore, as I will explain below, if that really was the underlying reason for our research, and the driving force behind the scientific passion of young people, we would find ourselves in a truly sad situation.
In reality, as several coprolites from different eras containing wood were found, paleontologists saw in it the possibility of a seasonal habit of dinosaurs, even if Karen Chin is not yet sure. They could have eaten wood, it is covered with mushrooms and this would have been an additional means for them to obtain resources at a time when large herbivores did not have much to eat, l grass only appeared on Earth towards the end of the dinosaur era. More clues to the diet of dinosaurs also come from rare intestine fossils. And if she cannot give an exact figure, Karen Chin estimates that there are about 5 herbivorous dinosaurs whose stomach contents have been found fossilized. “One of the stomachs found contained a lot of pine needles, another contained a lot of fruit,” she explains.
The field of study of the dinosaur entrails is called “dinosaur pale biology”. This science studies how plants and animals worked millions of years ago. And if for a long time there was little evidence to study to understand the pale biology of dinosaurs, in the late 1970s, paleontologist Jack Horner discovered eggs, embryos, and skeletons of fossilized babies. This revolutionized our understanding of the constitution of dinosaurs in the juvenile stage. Horner’s discoveries were made at a now-famous place: in the American state of Montana, at “Egg Mountain Suddenly there have been thousands upon thousands of baby, adolescent and adult dinosaur eggs, embryos and skeletons discovered,” according to Matt Carrano of the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History. These discoveries and those of other nesting sites have taught us that many dinosaurs were involved in prenatal care of their eggs and that they may well have the habit of staying with their young for long periods after their birth, two behaviors that sort of remind those of birds today. Many feathered dinosaurs obviously couldn’t fly. But their feathers could have been useful for sending visual signals, for fighting or to court the females they coveted. The feathers could even have been useful during nesting, to better cover the nest.
Now it is also possible to better guess the age of the dinosaurs from their remains and thanks to a better understanding of what they looked like at their young age. Because in the past, according to Matt Carrano, it was not always easy to say whether a fossil was that of a baby dinosaur or that of a small adult. In such a situation, having a specimen still in its egg indicated what its size was at the beginning of its life. One of the great revelations of dinosaur pale biology over the past 30 years has been the discovery of many feathered fossils, highlighting the similarities between dinosaurs and birds. Scientists are now much more certain that some dinosaurs were provided with them, even if they did not necessarily use them for flight, as is also the case with some current birds.
Although the dinosaurs have extinct for thousands of years, for the scientists’ researches, we can better learn and know more about dinosaurs.
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