Janice Boekhoff
 

Fun Science Fact

God designed quite a variety of body types within the dinosaurs. Their brains are no exception. The size of dinosaur brains varied from very small to proportionately very large.

Smartest

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ID 20749999 © Mr1805 | Dreamstime.com

Troodon, a carnivore that looked similar to the Deinonychus pictured above, had a brain size similar to a mammal or bird of today, making it one of the smartest dinosaurs we know about.

Not so smart (I didn’t want to call him dumb)

Stegosaurus dinosaur. Isolated on white, with clipping path.
ID 31679002 © Leonello Calvetti | Dreamstime.com

Stegosaurus had a brain the size of a walnut in that huge body. Chewing and walking at the same time was probably too difficult for him.

 

Could we live with dinosaurs?

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Tyrannosaurus size comparison
Other than the fright fest dreamed up by Michael Crichton (aka Jurassic Park), many people probably haven’t seriously considered the idea of whether we could have lived side by side with dinosaurs. Most scientists tell us this didn’t happen, so why think about it?

Why? Because those scientists could be wrong. Fossils of older humans are continually being found, pushing the accepted dates for human existence closer and closer to the time of the dinosaurs. As a creationist, I believe the Bible when it says humans and all other creatures (including dinosaurs) lived together when the earth was first created by God. Even if you don’t believe this, stick with me, because the idea of humans living with dinosaurs is so fun to think about that it made Michael Crichton millions.

How about we pretend it’s me (and my family) living with the dinosaurs? I know I might look like your average soccer mom, but I was a geologist, so I’ve got a heart for backwoods adventures, as well. Here are some issues I would face if I lived with dinosaurs.

  • Size difference (how to keep from getting crushed)

We’ve all seen the T-Rex in Jurassic Park walking away with a man stuck to the bottom of his foot. I’d try to avoid this if at all possible. In truth, if T-Rex steps on me it would be an accident. He doesn’t want to step on me (eat me, maybe, but not step on me).

Actually, there were many more sauropods (like Brachiosaurus or Apatosaurus) than there were T-Rexes and they were much bigger. Fortunately for me, they likely traveled in herds. A herd of sauropods would be easily heard (see what I did there) and therefore easily avoided.

Back to the T-Rex, now. If I had someplace safe to sleep, like a cave maybe, then T-Rex would only be an issue when I came out to hunt or gather plants. So definitely I would look for strong shelter. I might even construct an underground bunker. When I did venture outside, I think I could train myself to listen and feel for vibrations as a sign of an approaching T-Rex (remember the water shaking in the glass because of the T-Rex in Jurassic Park).

  • Carnivores (how to keep from getting eaten)

Like I said above, T-Rex might eat me, especially a juvenile one, however it would only be an act of opportunity. For a T-Rex, a human doesn’t carry much meat, even my 7 foot tall husband. The T-Rex’s natural prey was likely sauropods or ceratopsians (like Triceratops). A T-Rex killing a person is kind of like me killing a rabbit for food. I’ll do it if I have to and it’s available, but I’d rather have some nice deer meat. My theory is (and I’m glad I never have to test this out) that as long as I stay out of T-Rex’s way, he won’t bother with me.

Now what about Velociraptor? After all, it killed all those people in Jurassic Park. Yes, but the authors/filmmakers enhanced Velociraptor for the book and movie. It was actually the size of a large turkey. Dangerous, but not as deadly as you’d think. Utahraptor, on the other hand, was six feet tall, built similar to Velociraptor and topped out at 1,000 pounds. Not a creature I’d mess around with. As a predator, it probably had a large territory and hunted in packs. I’d make an effort to learn its habits and avoid the pack at all costs.

Also, I’d make sure I stayed out of open areas where I could be a target for other roaming predators. We’ve all seen the video of the lone zebra on the savannah taken down by the lightning fast cheetah. And I’d become an expert on evasion tactics. For instance, a modern elephant could outrun me in an open area, but not in the forest. It’s the same way that a rabbit can outrun a dog, even though a dog is faster. The rabbit makes turns that the dog can’t follow as a way of using the dog’s size against it.

The majority of dinosaurs were the size of a chicken or smaller, so they actually had more to fear from me. Most of the dinosaurs would have been my food, not the other way around.

  • Offspring (how to protect mine and avoid the big dinosaur ones)

One of the biggest threats to me and my family would be the juvenile form of the larger predators. A juvenile is still huge and would more likely see me as food than an adult. It’s possible I’d be able to hear a juvenile T-Rex approaching, especially if it hung out with its mom and dad for hunting lessons. Of course, any time I sensed danger, I’d want to conceal myself or head for the cave.

My kids would probably stay in the cave almost all the time to keep them safe (it’s okay, they already think I’m overprotective). And I’m sure we’d never venture out at night when we could stumble upon a predator by accident. The good news is, I’d probably teach them to throw a spear by age 5 (which my son would absolutely love).

The idea of me living with the dinosaurs and surviving might sound a little crazy, but we have evidence that ancient people lived in caves and hunted large game. Maybe not quite as large as dinosaurs, but mammoths, saber-toothed tigers, and bison were not small animals. And some paleontologists believe we hunted these animals into extinction.

While our bodies might seem puny when compared with larger dinosaurs, God gave us the unique ability to think, reason and communicate far beyond any animal. And as the best books and movies show, our big brains can take us to some amazing places. I can’t walk with the dinosaurs any more, but if I had a time machine, I’d go back and get me a Velociraptor burger.

What do you think? Do you have any other ideas on how we could live with dinosaurs? If you had a time machine, would you go back for a day to see the dinosaurs or does that sound like the start of a horror movie to you?

 

Photo Credit: ID 25276660 © Sofia Santos | Dreamstime.com

Devotion

Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.

John 15:13

To lay down your life for a friend. This is what Jesus calls the greatest love.

What about for a stranger? Every year men and women in our armed forces lay down their lives for their country. But is their country some collection of land, states and governments?

No, their country is you, and me, and my next door neighbor Bob. These strong men and women make the ultimate sacrifice for us.

I can think of nothing as akin to Christ’s example as a soldier serving the people of this country until death. As an American, I am humbled and awed by the sacrifices that those in our armed forces continue to make every day.

People say Americans are growing more selfish with each generation. Perhaps the people who say that are looking in the wrong place. Because our military is full of selfless people giving of their lives to make a difference in ours.

Dear Lord, bless those who serve in our “one nation under God.” Give them peace in knowing they are following Your example of sacrifice for love. In Jesus’s name, amen.

 

Fun Science Fact

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Apatosaurus Reconstruction

ID 39333179 © Mr1805 | Dreamstime.com

Did you know there’s no such thing as a Brontosaurus any more?

Really. Fred Flintstone actually worked on top of an Apatosaurus.

Why then do we all know the name Brontosaurus?

It all goes back to the late 1800’s when two paleontologists from different universities, O.C. Marsh and Edward Cope, were trying to make names for themselves. They competed against each other to unearth new fossil finds. At this time, Marsh discovered the fossilized body of an Apatosaurus with no head. He named it and published a reconstruction of it with a different skull on the body.

Two years later, Marsh’s field workers sent him another Apatosaurus skeleton (this one with a head) that he mistook for a new type of dinosaur. He named it Brontosaurus. In his rush, to beat Cope, Marsh gave the poor Apatosaurus an identity crisis which has lasted ever since.

Although the mistake was noticed by the early 1900’s, museums were slow to do away with the Brontosaurus and even slower to put the correct skull on Apatosaurus. In fact, the Carnegie Museum in Pittsburg had the wrong head on Apatosaurus up until the 1970’s. Can you imagine the identity issues involved in wearing the wrong head for eighty years (sounds like a bad soap opera plot, doesn’t it)?

Even so, kids everywhere still love the name Brontosaurus. I wonder if they could re-use it the next time they find a new sauropod dinosaur?

Reference: http://www.npr.org/2012/12/09/166665795/forget-extinct-the-brontosaurus-never-even-existed

 

Dinosaur to Bird Evolution, Part 2

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 ID 30870701 © Procyab | Dreamstime.com

Last week, we discussed some of the problems with the hypothesis of dinosaur to bird evolution. If you’re still with me, thanks for hanging in there through these longer, more technical (and hopefully interesting) posts. To see the post from last week, click here. Now on to a few more problems with the idea of dinosaurs changing into birds:

1)      Bird walk/lungs

Birds have a distinctive walk. We’ve all seen it and my kids do a perfect impression of a pigeon. Birds walk from the knee down because their upper leg bone remains firmly in place to support their air-sac lungs. Dinosaur legs and lungs are very different. No dinosaurs have fixed femurs like birds do. In particular, the Theropods, which birds supposedly evolved from, had moving femurs and therefore couldn’t support air-sac type lungs. Also, the dinosaur lung has a structure and physiology much closer to reptilian creatures than to birds.

2)      Warm-blooded versus Cold-blooded

Living reptiles are almost exclusively cold-blooded (meaning they take on the same temperature as their surroundings), while living birds are warm-blooded (meaning they maintain a constant temperature, like us). And birds have exceptionally high body temperatures due to a high metabolic rate. Originally, dinosaurs were thought to be cold-blooded like reptiles, but recently many paleontologists have re-considered. Some now suggest dinosaurs were warm-blooded. Is this because they want to conform to the dinosaur to bird hypothesis? Or maybe they’ve watched Jurassic Park too many times? (Hey, I can say it because it’s my favorite book/movie). Unfortunately, no clear evidence exists to support the warm bloodedness of dinosaurs. In fact, no evidence exists to assume they were cold-blooded either, except the fact most of them resemble today’s cold blooded reptiles. So the debate about dinosaur metabolism rages on.

3)      Bird hipped versus Lizard Hipped

Dinosaurs are typically grouped into two categories based on the structure of their hips. The bird hipped dinosaurs, called ornithischians, have a pubic bone directed to the rear (as in most birds), while the lizard hipped, called saurischians, have their pubic bone directed to the front (as in most mammals). This would probably lead you to assume that bird hipped dinosaurs are the ones which gave rise to the lineage of birds, right? Wrong. Bird hipped dinosaurs resembled reptiles, while the lizard hipped dinosaurs looked more like birds. Paleontologists believe the fleet-footed Theropod group were the ancestors of modern birds, such as T-Rex and Velociraptor (from Jurassic Park fame). These dinosaurs have hips that resemble lizards, not birds. Does it make sense that birds would evolve from the lizard hipped dinosaurs as is claimed?

As a small aside, Velociraptor was not nearly as big as they made it look in the Jurassic Park movies. I understand why they enlarged him—for dramatic effect—but a typical Velociraptor only got up to 7 feet long (including its tail). Its body would have been about the size of a turkey.

There are many reasons to be skeptical of the dinosaur to bird evolutionary hypothesis, not the least of which is that the Bible says it happened a different way. Genesis 1 makes it clear that winged creatures were created by God on Day 5 and land animals (which would include dinosaurs) were created on Day 6. The Bible tells us birds were actually created before dinosaurs. Knowing this doesn’t make these creatures any less fascinating to me. The fact that God personally designed every aspect of their physiology makes them that much more amazing.

What do you think? Are you surprised by some of the evidence? Does any of this change what dinosaurs mean to you? Do you still have questions? Ask them and I’ll do my best to get answers.

Additional Resources: Quad City Creation Science Association, http://www.qccsa.org, Answers in Genesis, https://answersingenesis.org/dinosaurs/feathers/did-dinosaurs-turn-into-birds/

 

 

 

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