Which dinosaur would actually survive in today’s world? A scientist explains
Can you picture living alongside a pasture of sauropods?
Dinosaurs do live today: as birds. Birds evolved from dinosaurs, and are part of the dinosaur family tree, so technically some dinosaurs did survive the asteroid impact 66 million years ago, by virtue of their fast growth, their biology that allows them to eat seeds, and their ability to fly away from danger. And there are some 14,000 species of them flourishing today.
But what about the dinosaurs that perished? Many of them probably could survive today.
Dinosaurs ruled the world for 150 million years, and endured hot and cold spells, volcanic eruptions, and changing sea levels. There is nothing about today’s world that would be fatal to them.
With that said, the major difference between the world of dinosaurs and today is that our modern Earth is considerably colder, with ice caps at the poles. In cooler climates, big animals are often favoured, because they can retain heat more easily, as are smaller animals that have insulation like hair or feathers to stay warm. That suggests that huge dinosaurs like the long-necked sauropods and small, feathered-covered dinosaurs like Velociraptors and kin would be especially resilient in today’s world. Smaller dinosaurs without feathers would probably be the most vulnerable.
- Why were dinosaurs so big?
- Did T. Rex actually have feathers?
- Why were birds the only dinosaurs to survive the mass extinction?
- Given the immense time period that dinosaurs existed for, why did none of them develop sentience?
Asked by: Mel Carter, via email
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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.
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