Temperature's rising: expert says dinosaurs were warm-blooded

Thu May 28, 2015 4:43pm EDT
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By Will Dunham

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Dinosaurs, those bygone masters of the planet, were warm-blooded just like today's mammals, according to a scientist who judged their metabolism using body mass and growth rates deduced from fossils of species including Tyrannosaurus rex.

Paleontologist Michael D'Emic of Stony Brook University in New York took issue with the conclusion of other researchers last year that dinosaurs were neither cold-blooded nor warm-blooded, but had a metabolism somewhere in between.

Scientists have debated since the 19th century whether dinosaurs were slow, lumbering, cold-blooded creatures, as originally thought, or boasted a more warm-blooded physiology allowing for a vigorous lifestyle.

"The main point of my study is that the dinosaurs that have been studied so far were on average as warm-blooded as mammals living today," said D'Emic, who argued that the 2014 study under-estimated dinosaur growth rates and should have analyzed dinosaurs statistically within the same group as today's birds.

Birds, which evolved from small feathered dinosaurs roughly 150 million years ago, are warm-blooded.

The researchers in last year's study evaluated the metabolism of 21 dinosaur species using a formula based on their body mass, as revealed by the bulk of their thigh bones, and their growth rates, indicated by growth rings in fossil bones akin to those in trees. The species included predators like T. rex, long-necked and duckbilled plant-eaters and others.

They compared this information to data on living mammals, birds, fish and reptiles.

D'Emic re-analyzed the same data to reach his conclusions, published in the journal Science.   Continued...

Vertebrate paleontologist Michael D'Emic is shown in this undated handout photo provided by Stony Brook University in Stony Brook, New York, May 28, 2015, with a fossil of the meat-eating dinosaur Majungasaurus, dug up by Stony Brook University field crews.  REUTERS/John Griffin/Stony Brook University/Handout via Reuters