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Earth Science

Caltech Scientists Measure Dinosaur Body Temp 51

Posted by Soulskill
from the clever-girl dept.
damn_registrars writes "Using rare isotope ratios, a geology team at CalTech has determined body temperatures of sauropod dinosaurs. Their work finds temperatures that are roughly in line with modern mammals for body temperature. However, as the authors point out, this does not on its own confirm dinosaurs to be entirely warm-blooded, as they may have kept these temperatures by sheer mass. The peer-reviewed paper is available online in PNAS. You can also get the article free through pubmed."
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Caltech Scientists Measure Dinosaur Body Temp

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  • by eln (21727) on Friday June 24, 2011 @01:43PM (#36558472) Homepage
    You'd think the reason this took so long was because they had to fabricate a thermometer large enough, but in fact the real hold up was convincing a grad student to stick that thermometer up the dinosaur's ass.
  • by hduff (570443) <hoytduff&gmail,com> on Friday June 24, 2011 @01:44PM (#36558484) Homepage Journal

    . . . that big a rectal thermometer?

  • It's Caltech (Score:2, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward

    That is all.

  • So I suppose it would make sense that their supposed ancestors have some warm blood in them too.
    • by Arlet (29997)

      It could have evolved somewhere half way between dinosaurs and birds.

      • by Anonymous Coward

        There is nothing half-way between dinosaurs and birds. One of Jesus' miracles was turning all those gigantic, roving eating machines into birds to the delight of all involved (but mostly just for the lulz.)

        Didn't you pay attention in history class?

        • There is nothing half-way between dinosaurs and birds. One of Jesus' miracles was turning all those gigantic, roving eating machines into birds to the delight of all involved (but mostly just for the lulz.)

          Didn't you pay attention in history class?

          For the lulz? I didn't know that Jesus was a terrorist!

  • I wonder if large land animals have to be warm blooded to function. One would think if a large dinosaur was cold blooded it would take a full day of sun to warm up all that mass, then when it was finally warm enough, it would be too dark to do anything useful.
    • by Arlet (29997)

      Not necessarily, the metabolism inside the dinosaur could have kept it warm enough, even when it was resting. The energy produced goes up by the cube of the size, while the surface area to lose that heat only goes up by the square.

      • by bkaul01 (619795)
        "Metabolism keeping it warm enough" is pretty much the definition of warm-blooded, right? ...
        • by Arlet (29997)

          Warm blooded also implies that the temperature stays relatively constant within a narrow range. Dinosaurs could have been warmer than their environment, but still with a wide range in operating temperatures, depending on their activity, sunshine and other factors.

          That's how warm-bloodedness would have evolved. Starting with a crude mechanism to keep temperature within a wide band, and slowly refining it to narrower and narrower bands.

          • I remember reading as a child that this was the suspected point of the sail structures found on many dinosaurs.
      • If its metabolism was enough to keep it warm, and it has some mechanism to reduce the metabolism or get ride of the extra heat when it gets too warm, we have a warm blooded creature!!! Now it its metabolism was enough to keep it warm, it does not have some mechanism to slow that metabolism or get ride of the extra heat when it gets too warm, we have a dead creature!!! So, I guess stating that its metabolism can keep it warm is enough here.

        Please compare a cold blooded creature (like a snake, for example) th

    • Even cold blooded animals generate some body heat. I would think that if you were to balloon a monitor lizard up to surapod size it's body temperature would probably be significantly higher than the environment. An Apatosaurus is 330 times more massive than a komodo dragon but has only 50 times the surface area. Quite frankly, I'd be surprised if they didn't have to go looking for shade on warm days to avoid overheating, even if they were relatively cold blooded (komodos often need to burrow through the

      • I'd be quite surprized if sauropodes did need to look for shade in hot days. Finding some could be quite a challenge.

      • by tompaulco (629533)
        That may be the case for Apatosaurus, but most dinosaur species were less than two feet tall, so they probably did not generate much body heat. The environment itself was significantly warmer back then, though.
  • Yo momma is so fat she heats the whole city by sheer mass.

  • by smellsofbikes (890263) on Friday June 24, 2011 @02:24PM (#36558996) Journal

    The point about body mass, if it's not clear, is that metabolism produces huge amounts of heat. When we digest food, about 50% of the energy that's released in converting complex molecules to carbon dioxide and water is released as heat. A huge animal can keep warm just from that. Mammals and birds maintain their temperature in a very narrow range. However, it's more complicated than just that would indicate: hibernating mammals (and one species of bird that hibernates) allow their temperature to fluctuate with the outside temperature. Likewise, there are reptiles that do some things to reduce their temperature variation, by seeking sunlight or shade, which is a type of active regulation. One current theory about dinosaurs and the evolution of feathers is that they showed up primarily as a thermoregulation system, providing insulation (particularly in rain) but allowing the animals to fluff their feathers to increase temperature losses to again actively thermoregulate.

  • by pjbgravely (751384) <pjbgravely2@nOSPAm.gmail.com> on Friday June 24, 2011 @02:46PM (#36559268) Homepage Journal
    Warm blooded? The next thing they are going to tell us is that dinosaurs had feathers.
  • After all those years, I'd think they'd be room temperature by now.

  • ... T-rex's tail. You shove the thermometer in.

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