Epilogue

By now, it should be evident that these fascinating creatures called dinosaurs played a pivotal role in Earth's history. Perhaps your newfound knowledge of dinosaurs will enter conversation at parties or serve you in trivia contests with the youngsters in your life. Yet you might reasonably ask (as many have asked me), What relevance do dinosaurs have today Do they serve any utility beyond their entertainment value Let me try to persuade you that dinosaurs still have much to teach us, if we...

Chapter Jurassic Park Dreams

As of the writing of this book, the future of the visitor center at Dinosaur National Monument is in question. The building has been deemed unsafe and closed until it can be repaired. It is my sincere hope that the reopening of the building will include a reinvig-oration of the paleontology program at this famous national landmark. 2. Even for ecologists studying living plants and animals, unraveling diet and other aspects of life history is a remarkable challenge, generally resulting in...

Chapter The Way Of All Creatures

Most biologists are confident we are now in the midst of the sixth great extinction, this one precipitated by humans. See the epilogue for more on this topic. 2. I must credit two individuals, Kirk Johnson and David Fastovsky, who helped inspire my conversion to the other side of this debate. 3. Shortly after the melting of Snowball Earth, large multicellular life exploded in diversity, a coincidence that has led some workers to suggest that the two events were causally linked (Hoffman and...

Figure

Variation in body size of the Morrison Formation theropod dinosaur fauna. From top to bottom (and left to right where applicable) Torvosaurus, Coelurus, Allosaurus, Stokesosaurus, Marshosaurus, and Ceratosaurus. Human added for scale. Back in the Late Jurassic, the Morrison Formation was also home to a diverse bunch of carnivores, some of which grew surprisingly large. At the small end of the theropod spectrum is bobcat-sized Koparion, followed by coyote-sized Tanycolagreus, cougar-sized...

The Goldilocks Hypothesis

Dinosaur physiology is ONE of the great paleontological mysteries. Were dinosaurs warm-blooded, like birds and mammals, or cold-blooded, like lizards, crocodiles and most other animals Among vertebrates, these divergent strategies are often associated with active or sluggish lifestyles, respectively. The recognition of birds as direct descendants of small, carnivorous dinosaurs makes this enigmatic question all the more intriguing. Did the warm-blooded metabolisms of birds arise after the split...

Stardust Saurians

Being both famous and extinct, dinosaurs tend to be portrayed as poster children for failure. Yet they are one of Nature's great success stories, having persisted for about 160 million years. (In contrast, primates have been around about 55 million years, our hominid cousins 7 million years, and humans a mere 200,000 years or so.) During that time, they evolved into a wondrous diversity of forms and occupied every continent, from pole to pole, becoming the dominant large-bodied land animals of...

Chapter Solar Eating

A tiny fraction of life on Earth exists entirely off the solar grid, obtaining energy from deep sea hydrothermal vents, which channel energy from within the planet. 2. Humans have become extremely adept at exploiting the solar energy stored in these fossil fuels. These ancient remains in actuality, the energy of the sun stored in solid form drive our economies and act as another pathway that returns carbon dioxide to the atmosphere. It is often stated incorrectly that fossil fuels are made from...