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Thread: The Problem With Dinosaurs

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    The Problem With Dinosaurs

    I'm not sure whether this belongs here or in the question and answer forum, however, because I believe it will inevitably touch upon Professor Carey's idea of an expanding Earth, I thought it might belong here.

    My central idea is that we should be paying more attention to what the size of certain dinosaurs, flying ones and sauropods for example, and what their remains are telling us about Earth at the time of their existence. If it's the case that it would be impossible for a sauropod to live today under present Earth conditions, or for flying dinosaurs to fly today, then that fact presents certain problems to our present understanding of conditions at the time, which may easily be explained by lower gravity ie. smaller earth.

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    This seems to be a problem conveniently unacknowledged or ignored in the mainstream: so much so that when a film like Jurassic Park was made the issue seemed to bother very few. I understand that with many films of that ilk many questions aren't asked generally, but I can't recall the point ever being made concerning the idea even by scientists, yet there was serious consideration of whether it was possible to revive an ancient extinct species from remnant DNA. BBC's "Walking with Dinosaurs" never made mention of the problem either.

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    Furthermore, the idea of "snowball Earth" appears commonly accepted, although no clear explanation has been put forward as to why it occurred, and if it did occur, why it ceased. Please correct me if I am wrong, but the idea of a snowball Earth is primarily based upon geological finds that suggest there were glaziers at the equator at some point of time. This conclusion is based upon calculations of the Earth's size being the same then as it is now - evidence of glaziers in Australia, and that location, according to present theories, being at the equator at the time. However, if one was to assume a different Earth size, different conclusions would be reached as to where the glazier was on the Earth, with no need to conclude that Earth was a snowball at one stage, and with no need to explain the mystery of why it occurred, plus the further puzzle of why snowball Earth disappeared.

    I would have thought with our present understanding of flight and gravity and what we have in the way of fossil records, it ought to be possible to calculate fairly closely the conditions which certain species of dinosaur would have needed to be sufficiently mobile for survival or flight. Once calculated, then it really becomes necessary to answer the questions those calculations pose rather than looking around them, continuing to base our theories about past earth conditions ignoring what appears to be an obvious problem.

    Naturally, if these problems suggest lower gravity conditions in the past, it has astronomical implications, including concerning ideas about the evolution of the solar system and its future. If earth has increased in size, it is unlikely to be the only planet to have done so. It may also continue growing. It's also possible that it has stopped growing or may grow in spurts.

    Extending the idea to the solar system may involve some reconsideration about what we are observing on certain moons which have volcanic activity - essentially spurting matter into space. Are they losing matter or, somewhat challengingly to our present ideas, creating matter some way? Because of a moon's lower gravity, at least some, possibly most, of the volcanic activity is lost to the moon in this process. Does this mean a moon with volcanic activity shooting vapour into space, for example, is slowly and marginally decreasing in mass as a result of the volcanic activity?
    Last edited by Canis Lupus; 2010-Jun-05 at 06:33 AM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Canis Lupus View Post
    My central idea is that we should be paying more attention to what the size of certain dinosaurs, flying ones and sauropods for example, and what their remains are telling us about Earth at the time of their existence. If it's the case that it would be impossible for a sauropod to live today under present Earth conditions, or for flying dinosaurs to fly today, then that fact presents certain problems to our present understanding of conditions at the time, which may easily be explained by lower gravity ie. smaller earth.
    Big "ifs" there. It isn't clear anyone has made a convincing case that lower gravity would be necessary. These subjects have been discussed on BAUT before:

    http://www.bautforum.com/showthread....ar-says-expert

    http://www.bautforum.com/showthread....physics-3.html

    This seems to be a problem conveniently unacknowledged or ignored in the mainstream: so much so that when a film like Jurassic Park was made the issue seemed to bother very few.
    I think it is more that nobody has made a good scientific case that there is a "dinosaur size" problem.

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    The following is an extract from http://preearth.net/

    Make of it what you will,...

    Gravity Greater than Previous.

    The collision between Heaven and PreEarth had the potential to change the surface gravity to such an extent that very little life would survive. The model where PreEarth has no iron shows that its surface gravity would have been 6.16 m/s^2. After the impact, the surface gravity would have increased by sixty percent. One suspects that such a drastic change would have extinguished all life. It is certainly difficult to imagine any animal life adapting to such an increase. At the other extreme, in the model where PreEarth had all the iron, the surface gravity would have been 9.78 m/s^2, which is about the same as Earth's today.

    In the 58% model, PreEarth would have had a surface gravity of 8.6 m/s^2, so plants and animals would have had to adapt to a fourteen percent increase. Certainly, large animals would have had difficulty adapting. Such an increase, may have been responsible for the disappearance of the dinosaurs, and other large animals and plants. However, many of the smaller animals and plants would have been able to survive this.

    There is a large amount of indirect evidence that the Earth's gravity is now greater than it once was. For example, pterosaurs, such as hatzegopteryx, had wingspans of over thirteen meters and large, solidly constructed heads, making it a great puzzle as to how they flew, or even if they flew. Similarly, it is not known why the larger dinosaurs such as, argentinasaurus, did not collapse under their own weight. It is also unknown, how the gigantic bird, argentavis magnificens, with a mass of seventy kilograms and a wingspan of seven meters, managed to fly, when an albatross, with a mass of only nine kilograms and a wingspan of three meters, finds it difficult to get off the ground. Of course, if gravity was once significantly less, then maybe this can be explained.

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    There is an on-going debate concerning dinosaurs being either warm or cold blooded. This debate centers on their size and remains unresolved one way or the other, although the present consensus appears they were warm blooded, whereas prior, it was cold blooded. I'd suggest that well known debate is indicative of a problem with their size which has not been solved.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Canis Lupus View Post
    Please correct me if I am wrong, but the idea of a snowball Earth is primarily based upon geological finds that suggest there were glaziers at the equator at some point of time. This conclusion is based upon calculations of the Earth's size being the same then as it is now - evidence of glaziers in Australia, and that location, according to present theories, being at the equator at the time.
    I'd not heard that one before. There is, of course, plenty of evidence of past glaciers in locations presently near the equator, but plate tectonics handles that quite easily. Do you have a source for any peer-reviewed research that suggests equatorial glaciers?

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    Quote Originally Posted by Canis Lupus View Post
    This seems to be a problem conveniently unacknowledged or ignored in the mainstream: so much so that when a film like Jurassic Park was made the issue seemed to bother very few.
    I think this is simply because no one who works in the field sees a problem here.

    One of the most vigorous proponents on talk.origins of the idea that dinosaurs of that size are "impossible" was Ted Holden. A good rebuttal of many of his arguments can be found that the talk.origins FAQ. Incidentally, his "explanation" for reduced gravity in the past is even more absurd than the expanding earth (if you can imagine such a thing).

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    Quote Originally Posted by Canis Lupus View Post
    There is an on-going debate concerning dinosaurs being either warm or cold blooded. This debate centers on their size and remains unresolved one way or the other, although the present consensus appears they were warm blooded, whereas prior, it was cold blooded. I'd suggest that well known debate is indicative of a problem with their size which has not been solved.
    The warm-/ cold-blooded debate doesn't centre on their size, however. It involves many other things, too, such as bone anatomy, activity levels, and predator-prey ratios.

    Grant Hutchison

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    If I recall, the large size of dinousars can be explained by an abundance of food and resources.

    I have never heard of any proposed problem with their size, nor do I see why there would be one.

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    Given that this thread is still open: http://www.bautforum.com/showthread....ophysics/page3 and is covering much the same topic, it might have been better for me to post in that thread than start one here.

    Silly me. Should the thread be merged? If so, sorry for the inconvenience in doing so.

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    What is your ATM theory? Are you advocating 'expanding earth'?

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    Sorry but how does a smaller Earth equate to lower gravity? With the same mass as today an Earth with a smaller radius would surely have higher gravity at the surface? Unless you are hypothesizing the Earth has gained significant mass in the last 70 million years? And if so from where?

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    Quote Originally Posted by Garrison View Post
    Sorry but how does a smaller Earth equate to lower gravity? With the same mass as today an Earth with a smaller radius would surely have higher gravity at the surface? Unless you are hypothesizing the Earth has gained significant mass in the last 70 million years? And if so from where?
    No. I am not putting forward that idea. The question you ask about the production of matter is one of the big problems about the expanding earth theory. I have an open mind about that idea, but it lacks sufficient evidence to be taken seriously. If there are problems accounting for the size of of dinosaurs and the flight of some species, however, lower gravity or some other explanation becomes necessary.

    Just looking at the largest birds today, which are more efficiently designed for flight than even larger less well equipped flying dinosaurs, they need to taxi to take off. Taking off and landing presents them with some obvious problems, although they do manage. How dinosaurs managed flight therefore presents us with even more problems in our understanding.

    If I do have an ATM it is that this problem needs to be considered more closely and explanations, with all their implications, considered seriously. That's not much of an ATM except to reject that there isn't a problem which needs solving with the size of dinosaurs.
    Last edited by Canis Lupus; 2010-Jun-06 at 04:15 AM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Hungry4info View Post
    If I recall, the large size of dinousars can be explained by an abundance of food and resources.

    I have never heard of any proposed problem with their size, nor do I see why there would be one.
    I'm not sure why this is an adequate explanation? Just how abundant does abundant have to be to achieve such sizes? There has certainly been, and certainly is now, abundance in food supply since dinosaurs went extinct. Yet, there has been nothing to match their size. We also do not have a clear explanation for why dinosaurs went extinct. If size such as theirs was so efficient in terms of survival, as it clearly was for the long period dinosaurs dominated the Earth, then one would think it would be favoured by nature again even if there was a sudden extinction event wiping out dinosaurs as presently believed. Yet nothing has evolved since approaching the proportions of dinosaurs. Even the largest mammals such as elephants appear lumbering, contradicting evidence of greater mobility and agility of even larger dinosaurs. If conditions were similar, nature would have evolved again to something similar in proportion, but this hasn't happened.
    Last edited by Canis Lupus; 2010-Jun-06 at 05:28 AM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by preearth View Post
    Make of it what you will,...
    What I make of it is you inserting your ATM into another persons ATM thread. Please do not do this again.

    Once again I request that you read the rules and the various advice threads.
    I don't see any Ice Giants.

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    Quote Originally Posted by geonuc View Post
    I'd not heard that one before. There is, of course, plenty of evidence of past glaciers in locations presently near the equator, but plate tectonics handles that quite easily. Do you have a source for any peer-reviewed research that suggests equatorial glaciers?

    "Science 5 March 2010:
    Vol. 327. no. 5970, pp. 1241 - 1243
    DOI: 10.1126/science.1183325


    Calibrating the Cryogenian
    Francis A. Macdonald,1,* Mark D. Schmitz,2 James L. Crowley,2 Charles F. Roots,3 David S. Jones,4 Adam C. Maloof,5 Justin V. Strauss,6 Phoebe A. Cohen,1 David T. Johnston,1 Daniel P. Schrag1

    The Neoproterozoic was an era of great environmental and biological change, but a paucity of direct and precise age constraints on strata from this time has prevented the complete integration of these records. We present four high-precision U-Pb ages for Neoproterozoic rocks in northwestern Canada that constrain large perturbations in the carbon cycle, a major diversification and depletion in the microfossil record, and the onset of the Sturtian glaciation. A volcanic tuff interbedded with Sturtian glacial deposits, dated at 716.5 million years ago, is synchronous with the age of the Franklin large igneous province and paleomagnetic poles that pin Laurentia to an equatorial position. Ice was therefore grounded below sea level at very low paleolatitudes, which implies that the Sturtian glaciation was global in extent."


    http://www.sciencemag.org/cgi/conten.../327/5970/1241

    Mawson, an Australian geologist, was the first to find evidence of glaziers in Australia, but did not think of the possibility of the location being at the equator at the time. Plate Tectonic theory had not developed at the time. With the theory came the idea that Mawson's discovery indicated glaziers at the equator. Sorry for the wiki reference. I was first informed about glaziers in Australia via a BBC documentary:

    Sir Douglas Mawson (1882–1958), an Australian geologist and Antarctic explorer, spent much of his career studying the Neoproterozoic stratigraphy of South Australia where he identified thick and extensive glacial sediments and late in his career speculated on the possibility of global glaciation.[4]

    Mawson's ideas of global glaciation, however, were based on the mistaken assumption that the geographic position of Australia, and that of other continents where low-latitude glacial deposits are found, has remained constant through time. With the advancement of the continental drift hypothesis, and eventually plate tectonic theory, came an easier explanation for the glaciogenic sediments—they were deposited at a point in time when the continents were at higher latitudes.

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    Quote Originally Posted by grant hutchison View Post
    The warm-/ cold-blooded debate doesn't centre on their size, however. It involves many other things, too, such as bone anatomy, activity levels, and predator-prey ratios.

    Grant Hutchison
    As I understand the debate in its origin the initial reason why dinosaurs were thought to be cold blooded was their great size. There was also the perceived similarities to reptiles which are cold blooded. Originally it was thought that warm blooded was impossible for an organism that size because of several problems. With the discovery of evidence which suggests warm blooded behaviour, indicative of greater mobility and activity, not like giant lumbering lizards, what was generally regarded as an impossibility has become otherwise. As long one ignores the initial problem, warm blooded appears correct, along with greater agility.

    The initial problem still remains, although with the growing evidence of warm blood for dinosaurs, it is now merely overlooked because of the weight of evidence suggesting warm blood. I'd contend the problem, like initially, is still present and requires some better explanation that just ignoring the initial problems identified with having warm blooded dinosaurs, despite the evidence suggesting warm blood. Both lines of thought are valid, although one might be wrong and the other correct. What's needed is another explanation to resolve the evidence for warm blood and the identification of problems with having a warm blooded creature that big.

    It would also help if that explanation takes into account how such large creatures could be anything but lumbering giants, which would probably make present day elephants look nimble by comparison, which we know they are not.
    Last edited by Canis Lupus; 2010-Jun-06 at 06:46 AM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Canis Lupus View Post
    I'm not sure why this is an adequate explanation? Just how abundant does abundant have to be to achieve such sizes? There has certainly been, and certainly is now, abundance in food supply since dinosaurs went extinct. Yet, there has been nothing to match their size.
    Oh yes there has: Blue Whales. And note that you're talking about the extremes in both cases (most dinosaurs weren't that large).

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    Quote Originally Posted by Van Rijn View Post
    Oh yes there has: Blue Whales. And note that you're talking about the extremes in both cases (most dinosaurs weren't that large).
    Isn't the problem with citing Blue Whales is that they are a water based mammal and there were several species of land based dinosaurs larger than Blue Whales?

    Also, doesn't it cut across the abundance as cause for the large size argument?

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    Quote Originally Posted by Canis Lupus View Post
    Isn't the problem with citing Blue Whales is that they are a water based mammal and there were several species of land based dinosaurs larger than Blue Whales?
    No. You said there has been nothing to match their size. That's clearly wrong.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Van Rijn View Post
    No. You said there has been nothing to match their size. That's clearly wrong.
    You are right. It was also incorrect of me to state that there were some species of dinosaurs larger than a blue whale. There is no evidence to support that assertion. Read the original statement as qualified by reference to land based only where considerations of gravity place limitations on size of existing species and the assertion begins to look more sensible.

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    The point is that there are current examples of very large, massive, active animals. Gravity is not the only consideration in animal size, nor is an blue whale exempt from gravity (though the external support is obviously different from that of a land animal).

    A large dinosaur would be different from a blue whale, but it is also different from an elephant. For one thing, you won't find many pneumatic bones in an elephant. Given what is known about dinosaurs, again, I'm not aware of anyone that's made a good scientific case that they would have had a problem with the Earth's gravity.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Canis Lupus View Post
    which would probably make present day elephants look nimble by comparison, which we know they are not.
    Elephants are suprisingly nimble (although that is not a very well defined term). They can run fast and without damaging plants around them or treading on their young. In fact, I have read that the best way to avoid being injured by stampeding elephants is to lie down in front of them ; that way they wont tread on you.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Van Rijn View Post
    The point is that there are current examples of very large, massive, active animals. Gravity is not the only consideration in animal size, nor is an blue whale exempt from gravity (though the external support is obviously different from that of a land animal).

    A large dinosaur would be different from a blue whale, but it is also different from an elephant. For one thing, you won't find many pneumatic bones in an elephant. Given what is known about dinosaurs, again, I'm not aware of anyone that's made a good scientific case that they would have had a problem with the Earth's gravity.
    And it is a point well made in regard to Blue Whales, except, as your post suggests, different considerations apply to land based organisms. We aren't in disagreement on that point.

    In referring to the point of pneumatic bones are you suggesting that present estimates of dinosaur weights need to be revised downwards because of hollow bones?

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    Quote Originally Posted by Canis Lupus View Post
    If I do have an ATM it is that this problem needs to be considered more closely and explanations, with all their implications, considered seriously. That's not much of an ATM except to reject that there isn't a problem which needs solving with the size of dinosaurs.
    Do you have any evidence there is a problem; other than your impressions that they are awfully big....

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    Quote Originally Posted by Strange View Post
    Elephants are suprisingly nimble (although that is not a very well defined term). They can run fast and without damaging plants around them or treading on their young. In fact, I have read that the best way to avoid being injured by stampeding elephants is to lie down in front of them ; that way they wont tread on you.
    It is relative term, fairly meaningless. I still maintain that elephants are lumbering in their motion although, obviously, not completely inept. For their conditions and survival needs, they cope well enough. Imagining them as predators is a different story. Any species with a need for speed is smaller than an elephant. Would a bear be the biggest predator presently?

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    Quote Originally Posted by Strange View Post
    Do you have any evidence there is a problem; other than your impressions that they are awfully big....
    The lack of any existing land based species rivalling their size. That's not my subjective assessment.

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    Herbivores have to deal with the extra weight of their digestive system, but have you never seen a "raging elephant"?

    Rhinos and Hippos can outrun Humans. Elephants can run about the same as the fastest human.


    Woolly Mammoth ( 15,000 to 24,000 lb)

    African elephant (12,000 to 15,000 lb)

    White Rhinoceros (3,000 to 8,000 lb)

    Hippopotamus (2,500 to 6,500 lb)

    Apatosaurus 48,000 lb

    Tyrannosaurus rex 15,00 lb

    Ankylosaurus 13,000 lb

    Stegosaurus 5,000 lb

    Larger dinosaurs used water to offset their weight.
    As for Pterosaurs and the like, I maintain that atmospheric pressure has fallen, by a great deal before 500Mya, but continuing to fall some since.

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    I share Canis Lupus's view that there is a problem with dinosaurs.

    Let me begin with what almost everyone will dismiss as complete prejudice on my part. I have watched Jurassic Park. I have seen Alan Grant and co stare up dumbfounded at the Brachiosaurus -- and I did not believe it. What I mean by that is this: the visual image defied the link which experience has told me exists between physics (gravity) and biology (fresh and bones). It was to me a manifest physical impossibility. The gravity was missing. The bone-crunchingly mighty weight did not show up in the image.

    One can at once SEE the massiveness of an elephant in the way it moves, without ones mind consciously reflecting upon every visual indication of ponderousness. Show me a scampering light-footed African elephant and my mind does not believe it. It is with exactly the same quality of disbelief that my mind disbelieves the Brachiosaurus. It is an impossibility under "Earth gravity".

    How can anyone watch that film and not instinctively share the same feeling as me?

    But there is a more scientific aspect to this question that Canis Lupus has not deployed. It has been a long long time in evolutionary terms since the age of the dinosaurs. Many species have come and gone even in the last one million years. There must have been many ecological niches since the end of the Cretaceous period in which greatest advantage coincided with greatest size. In cases of emerging species differentiation (such as arise from separation of populations due to rising sea level, or selection of alternative food opportunities, etc) major changes of size seem to occur fairly readily and rapidly -- within a few score generations.

    Consider all the extraordinary things that evolution has achieved in the course of the Cenozoic era. It does seem reasonable to assume that some land species would have achieved a weight of more than 1.8 African elephants [or whatever precisely the heaviest of the mastodons reached] over the past 10/20/30/etc millions of years if gravity were not providing a barrier that had been a lesser one in earlier times.

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    Talking of elephants, there are befits of being very large: you don't get predated (as much). And that is probably related to the questions about why we don't have such large animals today: the whole balance of ecosystems and predator/prey relationships have changed. Presumably there is nowhere nowadays where it either necessary or possible to grow that large. Who knows that it won't happen again.

    Arguing that it "looks implausible" (and referencing a Hollywood movie for support) is like all thos who argue that relaitivity is "obviously" nonsense because trains can't shrink, or quantum mechanics is "obviously" wrong because they don't understand it.

    Show me an expert who thinks there is a problem, and I will be interested.

    Quote Originally Posted by mutineer View Post
    Show me a scampering light-footed African elephant and my mind does not believe it.
    Have you seen an elephant run and not believed it?

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    Claiming elephants are lumbering is like saying bears are lumbering. For their size they are amazingly dexterous and limber. Also QUICK. But these are all terms of relative, subjective determination. And that is where the argument tends to fall on its face. Whales could also be said to be huge and lumbering beasts but they are also gentle and accurate in their movements. My dogs aren't nearly as aware of their size as some of these huge animals. Horses, for their size and weight, are also remarkably aware of where their feet are. I had one, in fact, step on my foot and had it pressed down all the way I would likely still be limping.

    My point i suppose is this: Large animals, beasts, whatevers, are not stumbling giants.

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