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January 20, 2008 12:56 AM   Subscribe

The Strange Lives of Polar Dinosaurs: How did they endure months of perpetual cold and dark? See also Taking A Dinosaur's Temperature: Polar species heat up one of paleontology's great debates. And Bones To Pick: Paleontologist William Hammer hunts dinosaur fossils in the Antarctic. From Smithsonian Magazine.
posted by amyms (22 comments total) 4 users marked this as a favorite

 
They used trilobites as hot water bottles.
posted by Henry C. Mabuse at 1:20 AM on January 20, 2008


"How did they endure months of perpetual cold and dark?"

I sometimes wonder the same thing about the time I spent in Brussels.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 1:32 AM on January 20, 2008


How did they endure months of perpetual cold and dark?

They did what we do in Minneapolis.

They swore a lot, and drank.
posted by louche mustachio at 1:43 AM on January 20, 2008 [1 favorite]


The answer is obvious from the comments on the first link: since the time of the dinosaurs the earth has expanded and doubled its size due to internal heat, and so the smaller earth had less gravity. Ergo, the simple explanation is that dinosaurs flew north for the winter!

(That line of thought is a new one to me. I wonder if those people get enough iodine in ther diet?)
posted by Pinback at 2:03 AM on January 20, 2008


I was just going to mention that it does Smithsonian's web site no favors to allow unmoderated commenting. Very Web 1.88 and all that, but jesus, the moronity.

Interesting article, amyms, thanks!
posted by maxwelton at 2:40 AM on January 20, 2008


I thought it was pretty much settled at this point that dinosaurs were warm-blooded and that some had feathers. I imagine that any cold-climate dinosaur would lead a lifestyle much like a modern penguin, or, if larger, like a walrus or elephant seal. Insulation from fat and (possibly) feathers would be the key. Am I missing something that would make this impossible?
posted by Faint of Butt at 5:21 AM on January 20, 2008


please, the dinosaurs all drowned because noah couldn't fit them on the ark
posted by pyramid termite at 6:49 AM on January 20, 2008


They flew Santa's sleigh back then, before there were cheaper, more fuel-efficient mammals. So, of course, they survived by staying in the barn; and, to keep their body temperature up, they huddled together, and ate as much hay and elves as they could.

(I'll go read the article.)
posted by not_on_display at 7:32 AM on January 20, 2008


how long have these beings exsited on this earth
posted by Baby_Balrog at 8:03 AM on January 20, 2008


Great post!

Several wear this year's fashion statement, a T-shirt that reads "Mammalia: Popcorn of the Cretaceous" and shows a bipedal dinosaur clutching two ratlike mammals in one paw and tossing another toward its gaping, toothy mouth.

I must have this shirt!
posted by LarryC at 9:05 AM on January 20, 2008


There is an image on this page.
posted by LarryC at 9:08 AM on January 20, 2008


The Strange Lives of Polar Dinosaurs was excellent, thanks for the link. I'd never considered that aspect of dinosaur ecology before.

And, my God, the comments! I weep for science education and rational thought.
posted by lekvar at 11:02 AM on January 20, 2008


yow and to think that I was erroneously under the impression that the whole dinosaur as bird theory was merely a fictional construct from the blockbuster film Jurassic Park. My entire world-view has shifted in the face of this revelation. OMFG
posted by Escapetank at 12:15 PM on January 20, 2008


Don't forget the sequel, The Even Stranger Lives of Bipolar Dinosaurs

This looks like a job for... BIPOLAR BEAR! But I can't get out of bed this month.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 12:45 PM on January 20, 2008 [1 favorite]


Maybe the elder things knitted nice coseys for them.
posted by Artw at 1:19 PM on January 20, 2008


Several wear this year's fashion statement, a T-shirt that reads "Mammalia: Popcorn of the Cretaceous" and shows a bipedal dinosaur clutching two ratlike mammals in one paw and tossing another toward its gaping, toothy mouth.

OMFG! *WANT*!!!

I've got friends in Melbourne - shall I see if I can get them to pick up some of these t-shirts?

Anybody interested, MefiMail me your size & we'll work it out from there.
posted by UbuRoivas at 2:54 PM on January 20, 2008


Hm, that article completely failed to elucidate whether or not dinosaurs were good story tellers.
posted by UbuRoivas at 4:25 PM on January 20, 2008


Or how clever they were at inventing ways to reveal their friends' prejudices & preconceptions.
posted by UbuRoivas at 4:45 PM on January 20, 2008


It is now gaining acceptance in the scientific community that the earth has expanded almost twice its size since the time of the dinosaurs and is still expanding today due to its internal heat and other processes I do not yet understand. This accounts for the drop in levels in the Great Lakes, the Black Sea and the Dead Sea. Paleontologists need to incorporate this into their views. The ancient earth would have had less gravity; a large dinosaur's bones today could not support its weight. An expanding earth accounts for warm polar regions at the time.

Is this comment genuine, a joke, or a subtle attempt to make the IDers/young-Earthers look more credible? Whatever, it's very funny.
posted by WPW at 5:57 PM on January 20, 2008


Re-reading it, it's the "... and other processes I do not yet understand" that makes it genius.
posted by WPW at 5:58 PM on January 20, 2008


Yes. "Paleontologists need to incorporate this [and other processes I do not yet understand] into their views" - pure comic gold!
posted by UbuRoivas at 6:26 PM on January 20, 2008


Fascinating stuff. I love reading about arguments like this:
Most paleontologists have accepted [that dinosaurs were killed off by] an asteroid more than six miles wide that socked Earth 65 million years ago. It gouged a crater more than 100 miles wide on what is now the Yucatán Peninsula in Mexico. According to the leading scenario, the impact threw huge amounts of dust and other debris into the atmosphere, blocking sunlight and sinking the Earth into darkness for weeks or even months. A global disaster certainly struck at the time, according to overwhelming fossil and geological evidence. As Fastovsky and Weishampel write in The Evolution and Extinction of the Dinosaurs, "the world's oceans were virtually 'dead'" as photosynthesis by plankton ceased and marine food webs unraveled. The dinosaurs died, while the ancestors of today's mammals, birds and reptiles hung on.

Paleontologists disagree about what the existence of polar dinosaurs says about the asteroid-winter scenario. Fiorillo says he is skeptical of it because "dinosaurs in Alaska were doing just fine in conditions just like that." He argues that climate changes caused by shifts in circulation of the atmosphere and oceans probably did in the dinosaurs.

But Rich says that the lives of polar dinosaurs can help researchers understand why dinosaurs went extinct after the impact. The catastrophe had to have been long and severe enough to kill off the dark- and cold-adapted animals. "You can't just have it [darkness] for a month and do the job," he says.

But Fastovsky says that polar dinosaurs tell us nothing about the animals' demise because we don't know whether these particular species were even alive at the end of the Cretaceous period. Rich's Australian dinosaurs were long extinct by the time the asteroid hit. Whether the dinosaurs on the North Slope of Alaska were alive is uncertain, he says; researchers have found no fossil layers there from the very end of the Cretaceous period.
Unlike arguments about quantum theory, these are actually comprehensible to me.
posted by languagehat at 6:42 AM on January 21, 2008


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