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Why didn’t dinosaurs evolve to be more intelligent?

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Jurassic Park taught us that the T. Rex wasn’t necessarily the most clever creature, but there are a number of reasons they didn’t adapt to become smarter.

Asked by: Steve Barron, Northumberland

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They did! Dinosaurs evolved into modern birds and some of them are extremely intelligent. In Japan, there are crows that have learnt to use the traffic to crack the shells of nuts that they drop – and they will wait for the lights to turn red, so they can safely retrieve them.

One reason that birds still aren’t as intelligent as humans is that a heavy, energy-hungry brain doesn’t mix well with birds’ main adaptive advantage – flying. It’s important to realise that intelligence isn’t the goal of evolution, nor is it always the best adaptation to the environment. The enormous sauropod dinosaurs lasted on the planet for 100 million years, despite their tiny brains. We’ve had ‘intelligence’ for just a few million years, so it’s too early to say whether it is a better strategy.


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Authors

luis villazon
Luis VillazonQ&A expert

Luis trained as a zoologist, but now works as a science and technology educator. In his spare time he builds 3D-printed robots, in the hope that he will be spared when the revolution inevitably comes.

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