biology zoology birds dinosaur paleontology

Do Dinosaurs Still Exist?

You bet: Dinosaurs still exist!

Three years ago I visited with my grandchildren a dinosaur exhibition in Singapore. On that occasion I asked the guide very politely and with a serious face whether dinosaurs still existed today. And equally politely and seriously the guide answered “No, Sir, they died out years ago.” But have dinosaurs really become extinct a long time ago, is “Nessie” of Loch Ness in Scotland perhaps a survivor of the distant past or just a figment of imagination? (I am sure it’s the latter).

Well, most people think that the dinosaur age came to a close a long time ago and that this group of reptiles has been extinct for some 70 million years. The idea that a cosmic catastrophe in the form of a gigantic meteorite that dropped into the Mexican Caribbean region, spilled highly toxic iridium and then cooled and darkened the Earth for many years is to blame for their demise, has gained the most acceptance in the scientific community despite some other attempts to explain the disappearance of the dinosaurs.

But have they really all disappeared? According to many palaeontologists, championed by the American palaeontologist Robert T. Bakker, who put forward his conclusions more than 40 years ago, one branch of the dinosaurs has not become extinct at all, but is still with us in the shape of (Neo)Theropoda and doing extremely well: the birds. In his very readable book of 1986 “The Dinosaur Heresies” he points out skeletal similarities between birds and certain dinosaurs and provides evidence that lifestyle and behaviour were also quite similar. There is more or less consensus amongst zoologists that crocodiles and birds are more closely related to one another than lizards to birds or even lizards to crocodiles, but Bakker went further in his speculation and on the basis of palaeoclimatological data and anatomical specializations concluded that dinosaurs, like birds, must have been warm-blooded animals.

Paradoxiocally, John Ruben, also an American palaeontologist, has come up with the idea, based on studies of cardio-pulmonary anatomy, that the first birds were not descendants of the theropodan dinosaurs, but had evolved from diapsid reptiles and could even have been cold-blooded. He points out that reptilian energetics do permit short bursts of activity and, in fact, provided data that cold-blooded animals are more economic in their use of muscle-energy than warm blooded ones. In his view the first birds were reptilian in anatomy and physiology and capable of ground-upward take-off flapping flights up to 1.5 km distance and some extinct reptiles, interpreted by others to represent ancestors of birds, might actually be descendents of early bird-like reptiles, reversing the accepted phylogenetic scenario.

What to make of such exciting, but contradictory statements when you are like me, i.e. not a palaeontologist, but an ordinary “consumer of science news”? My suggestion, try to attend some paleontological conference and listen to what the experts have to say on this matter and read some informative blog like that by Darren Naish

© Dr V.B. Meyer-Rochow and, 2018.
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2 thoughts on “Do Dinosaurs Still Exist?

  1. “What to make”

    That Dr. Ruben shouldn’t be taken seriously? I’d use stronger (and more accurate) language, but yeah, that would be the logical conclusion. I suggest reading his papers, and not just taking Dr. Naish’s (or even my own) Words: that way, any doubts as to how unconvincing they are, will be removed.

    I know, it’s a harsh statement, but if you read some of his actual papers, it isn’t exactly inspiring or cutting edge (it’s not even good science). Dr. Naish’s post can’t do the topic justice—accurate as it is.

    And don’t get me started about that paper you might be alluding to (which Dr. Ruben co-authored with a student of his, if memory serves). It rendered my Paleo Professor—a normally outspoken man who isn’t at a loss for words—speechless for a few minutes.

    But as mentioned: don’t take mine or Dr. Naish’s words for it. See here:


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