Dinosaurs have caught people’s fancy since a long time. However, have you ever given a thought about what it would actually be like if dinosaurs actually lived amongst us? Turns out, they probably wouldn’t even have looked very much like the dinosaurs we know. In fact, they would probably be more human: a study surmised that had dinosaurs managed to survive, they would have evolved into intelligent “dinosauroids” – a humanoid dinosaur.
According to Dale Russell, who discovered the Troodon (also called the Stenonychosaurus), dinosaurs were on the way to becoming intellectual beings. These “dinosauroids” would have borne a strikingly close resemblance to humans. The Troodon possessed several features which hinted at this evolution, opposable thumbs and binocular vision amongst them. They are also thought of as being social animals. This has led to the belief that these dinosaurs were on the way to evolving into intelligent life forms.
Russell, during his experiment, realised that the Troodon’s brain size was much larger in comparison to its relative body size, as well as larger than was usual for dinosaurs. He ran the figures and came up with the fact that the dinosaur’s modern-day descendants would have pretty much the same brain volume as humans do.
This evolving brain would have changed dinosaurs’ appearance as well, moulding them into a humanoid figure. These “dinosauroids” would be capable of standing upright while still retaining reptilian features such as the scaly skin and lack of external genitals.
Come to think of it, had dinosaurs actually managed to survive to this day, they would probably have interacted with humans as freely and actively as other animals do, and while paleontologists have dismissed Russell’s theory for being a bit too improbable, it still remains an interesting way thought.
Troodon also had one of the largest brain-body ratios of any dinosaur (comparable to an emu). For these reasons, Dale Russell suggested that if dinosaurs had not become extinct, Troodon could have evolved into the dominant sentient species instead of humans. In Russell’s mind, they would have evolved to look like humans.
The evolutionary biologist and author Richard Dawkins is not exactly a fan of the idea.
The hypothetical evolution of big brains, intelligence and so on among imaginary post-Cretaceous deinonychosaurs is not (in his opinion) all that unreasonable, and he bases this assertion on what birds have been doing over the past 65 million years. Look at parrots and corvids. Parrots overlap with primates in brain : body size ratio, intelligence and abilities, and evidence suggests that they (and corvids) have sophisticated emotions that aren’t much different from ours (or from those of other primates; humans are not magic animals different from all the others, but part of a spectrum). You probably heard the recent reports about funeral rites in magpies. This was in the news thanks to the publication of Bekoff’s paper (Bekoff 2009), but stuff like this has been widely reported anecdotally and there’s every reason to take it seriously.
He said: “As for the idea that those bird-like dinosaurs might have evolved into bolt upright, tailless humanoids… well, it’s a thoroughly stupid idea and I’m sure you don’t need me to go through the arguments again. To put it as succinctly as possible, our body shape is the product of our very specific evolutionary history, and can we be absolutely sure that it’s ‘the best’ body shape for the evolution of big brains or intelligence? Yes or no (I think no), there doesn’t seem to be any indication (either from fossils, or from actual post-Cretaceous dinosaurs, by which I mean birds) that dinosaurs would go this way, big brain or no.
Fabio Evagelista is a Brazilian writer.
Crossed Paths is the first book of the Myra-Hati trilogy, an epic adventure in a post-apocalyptic world, for the lovers of sci-fi / fantasy genre. This is the author’s first work published in America.