Given the immense time period that dinosaurs existed for, why did none of them develop sentience?
One thing that sets humans apart from other animals – as far as we know – is that we are sentient.
Not only do we have large brains and keen intelligence, but we are self-aware.
We are conscious: we sense the world around us in an advanced way, and know that we exist, and that others exist.
Our species has been around for just a few hundred thousand years, a newcomer on the geological scene. So why didn’t dinosaurs develop sentience during their evolutionary run that exceeded 150 million years?
First off, we assume they didn’t, because they didn’t leave records of things like writing, language and other sentient thought processes in the fossil record. But we do know from CT scanning of fossil skulls that many dinosaurs had very large brains.
Could these large brains have eventually become sentient? Maybe, if the end-Cretaceous asteroid impact didn’t knock out dinosaurs in their prime and pave the way for our mammalian ancestors.
- Would dinosaurs have gotten even bigger if they weren’t wiped out?
- Would the dinosaurs have eaten us if we were alive at the same time?
- If the dinosaurs didn’t go extinct, could they have developed a civilised society?
- Why didn’t dinosaurs evolve to be more intelligent?
Asked by: Pamela Flower, via email
To submit your questions email us at email@example.com (don't forget to include your name and location)
Steve is a professor and palaeontologist at the University of Edinburgh and the author of the book The Rise And Reign Of The Mammals (£20, Picador), a 325-million-year odyssey of mammalian evolution and the people who study mammal fossils.