Dinosaur George can bite me!

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedintumblrmailby feather

Okay, I know all I am doing is fueling the perpetuation of this kind of crap on TV.

That said, I was bored, and one of the few cool things about The History Channel is that it allows folks to watch their shows online.

The latest one was called: Bloodiest Battle; the story of the Cleveland Lloyd Quarry.

Well, the JFC version of what happens.

Anyway, there were, as usual, a host of annoying offenses in the show. Besides the ever annoying “loud dinosaurs” (i.e. all the dinosaurs couldn’t stop roaring), there was also the requisite rampant speculation on the social life of Allosaurus, the ecological relationship between Allosaurus and Ceratosaurus, and various anatomical flubs that continue to send out the message that The History Channel only hires the “talking heads” so they can appear scientifically legitimate.

Anyway, the only reason I am bringing this one up is because the most egregious error in the entire program (in my mind, at least) was the absolute statement from “Dinosaur George” Blasing that “all the evidence points to these animals being warm-blooded.”

That is bull-shit with a capital B.

Er…Bull-Shit.

There is no, I reiterate NO consensus on the thermophysiology of dinosaurs. That is true for all dinosaurs. All the evidence used so far has been ambiguous at best.

Furthermore, a “cold-blooded” Allosaurus is going to have the same overheating problem as a “warm-blooded” Allosaurus.

The problem has nothing to do with thermophysiology. It has to do with big animals over-exerting themselves in a hot environment. Dinosaurs were reptiles, and like all reptiles, they had a very limited means of removing heat. No sweat glands, and no real bare skin.

One thing that Allosaurus and other saurischian dinosaurs may have used to keep cool is their air sac system. Air sacs in birds do not lead to their high aerobic capacity. That is accomplished through the flow through system that the air sacs created, where oxygen is sent only one way (vs. the dead end bellows way that mammals and reptiles use). The perfusion of extra air sacs all over the body does nothing to add to endurance in birds. What it does do, though, is lighten the body and provide a spot for heat to dump from deep in the body. It is honestly quite likely that this is was the main impetus for air sac evolution in dinosaurs, and its consequent exploitation by their avian descendants.

This explanation would certainly have been a more scientific answer to how Allosaurus kept cool instead of pulling that antorbital fenestra radiator idea out of wherever “Dinosaur George” found it.

I don’t like absolutism in science programs anyway, but this type of absolutism is what lead to the general public thinking, erroneously, that scientists have discovered dinosaurs to have been warm-blooded. All this winds up doing is creating a false concept of dinosaurs that winds up getting shot down when new students enter the field and find that dinosaurs weren’t the super hot-blooded beasts they thought they were.

Plus, it’s just annoying when some fanboy says that being “warm-blooded” is one of the fundamental differences between dinosaurs and other reptiles.

Okay, I’m done venting.

Next episode involves some mythical beast called a “megalodon” (they must mean Carcharocles/Carcharodon megalodon). I hear that, at 15 meters (50ft) in length, it was the size of a jumbo jet and had to eat a tonne of meat a day to keep going.

Yeah, definitely sounds like something worth missing!

Still outgassing

~Jura

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedintumblrmailby feather

19 Responses to Dinosaur George can bite me!

  1. Avatar David Ryes
    David Ryes says:

    Man, you sound like a typical nerd. It’s a TV show dude…don’t you get it? I guess your comment about “Dinosaur George can Bite Me” is the typical scientific response to people you dissagree with? Let’s see, this guy has his own tv show with several million viewers, and you have this……….blog.
    Wow, your parents must be proud of you.
    What a fucking worthless turd. No wonder you are a loner. Who wcould stand being around you!

  2. Heh, you are seriously overestimating the amount of people who watch The History Channel. If this was just a show I would have no problem letting things slide. The problem is that this is a show that is masquerading around as an educational piece. As such, it gets held to a higher standard than an episode of Sliders, or King Kong.

  3. Wow, what a worthless piece of crap you are. If you start making lots of money dedicating your life to something more worth while, then maybe that might make you feel better about yourself. I don’t see a “doctor” next to your name, so who the FUCK are you to discount what George Blasing is saying? Find something better to do with your time.

  4. Funny, I don’t see a Dr. by George Blasing’s name either. Maybe you should look up just how much formal training Mr. Blasing really has.

  5. If their is no doctor next to your name, then you have no right attacking someone who does not have Doctor next to their name. I HAVE done a tremendous amount of research since the show started and he seems to be right on the mark. Just how much FORMAL training do you have? Just because he has no degree, you can not discount everything he is saying. Everyone is entitled to their opinions, he however bases his on FACT. You seem to be nothing more than a faceless asshole who likes making other peoples like hell. like the first guy that wrote, your parents must be proud of this website you have. It seems you have nothing more.

  6. Avatar Anonymous
    Anonymous says:

    We just watched a few episodes of “Jurassic Fight Club” last night and both had the strangest feeling that “Dinosaur George” was a quack. Neither of us are in the biology field, no less paleontology, but too many of his claims just sounded so imaginative and/or made-up. When we saw his description as “paleontology expert” (rather than “paleontologist”), we headed to the internet.

    Thanks for posting your observations. I wouldn’t worry about those earlier comments, either. They sound like they’re all from the same person.

    • @Anonymous: I guess Discovery is re-running episodes of JFC again. I’m glad the main message of these blog posts has gotten out there. Mainly that paleontologists are getting sick of having their field misrepresented on television. The internet gives us a chance to set the record straight. Thanks for the reply.

  7. Avatar Eric Warren
    Eric Warren says:

    …Man, you are a bitter son of a bitch…It is a tv show, like “Walking with Dinosaurs” was a tv show…one with a considerable amount of errors in it also. What Blasing’s credentials are is of no matter, information is information. Do you think that sitting in a classroom, paying ungodly amounts of money for a piece of paper and a title all of a sudden makes someone better? Anyone can learn the information needed to study and discuss and form ideas, NOT everyone has the opportunity to attend Yale or Harvard or John’s Hopkin’s or any other grad school for that matter. You are a very ignorant, closed minded individual. How someone learns something does not matter, what matters is that they do learn it. Being a doctor makes no difference in most sciences, access to information and specimens does. It is a person’s willingness to learn and understand that makes the difference. Peter Larson isn’t a PhD either, but is considered an authority, because he studies and collects and communicates…He doesn’t sit around, bitter and trying to pick on other people for their POSITIVE efforts. Whether or not the person that tells me that Allosaurus was an endotherm has a doctorate or not does not matter…NOONE can prove it was or wasn’t…ANYONE can look at the evidence, read about the differences between warm and cold blooded and figure it out as best as possible with the evidence available…and dude, the overt usages of BIG words or alternate names that the lay person isn’t aware of or doesn’t understand(white pointer? seriously, just fucking call it a Great White)in your blog and you profile information doesn’t make you sound smart, it makes you sound pretentious…

  8. Avatar Anonymous
    Anonymous says:

    Anon from earlier again, Jura. We actually streamed the videos online.

    Also, have you checked the IP addresses of these angry commenters? I can’t help but wonder if it’d turn up something interesting.

    • I looked into this before. The IPs are all different. I doubt there is any real spoofing going on. It just that (for better, or for worse) Dinosaur George has a popular following.

  9. Avatar Send George Home...
    Send George Home... says:

    “Dinosaur” George is nothing but a blowhard. I have seen all of the episodes and wondered where they got this guy so I looked him up and he is “self-taught”. Meaning has no education in these fields and he certainly is no scientist. He is a self promoter. They show would have been a lot more enjoyable without him constantly telling us things that have never been proven. Having said that, I did enjoy the show. It is great entertainment. But it is not “education”. Go to school “Dinosaur” George…….

  10. while its sad that people like george get exposure, i have found that much of the field of paleontology has sunk to the level of wild speculation and beating those theories into being accepted. a lot of “facts” have been formed to bolster the current trends. where’s the objectivity?

  11. Avatar rICHARD THE NEWT LOVERrICHARD
    rICHARD THE NEWT LOVERrICHARD says:

    As a person who studies many life sciences including paleontology for the shear love of knowledge,I understand the responsibility a person like George Blasing has to an audience and this requires he bring to the table only information that is considered currently acceptable to the scienctific community. I too do not have a PhD and I do not hold this against him. I have have seen his series before and always wondered who he was especially after I recognized how differently be portrayed scenarios which seemed very far fetched and as the earlier writer stated many of his statements were just plain incorrect. I’m shocked by the responces to his post because it shows the very serious defects in the way these “hopefully young” air heads think or more appropriately don’t think. “It’s only a tv show”… and the sick-minded who cannot think but have to cowardly call all kinds of obscenities at the poster. 1)Science is a serious business.People spend their entire lives trying to find the true way that this world works. 2)The efforts of these career scientists is totally disrepected when misinfor-mation is spread cloaked as fact. And when you have a public forum (calling itself “documentary tv”) putting out erroneous info, any sensible person in the interest of honest education would be upset. I do not know George Blasing.He seems, as I do, to have a genuine passion for the subject. But this cannot be justified . And the real indictment is with History Chan-nel who seems more interested with their alien programs to push as much nonsense into the caverness minds of highly uneducated Americans. No wonder we score so low on not only science tests but on almost all suject matter when it comes to comparison with other nations. The discovery channel,history channel and others have with a few exceptions (BBC programing),sold out on being a forum for true education. For many of you, thinking would be a refreshing change ..try it sometime!

    • Avatar Harrison Jurenko
      Harrison Jurenko says:

      You do have to understand though, that there is not a single documentary in this field that is completely accurate.

  12. Avatar aristophanes
    aristophanes says:

    Actually there is plenty of evidence for warm-bloodedness in Dinosaurs. The most damming evidence are the raptors. Raptors are lithe quick-footed animals. Speed and agility suggests that they had to be warm-blooded. Cold-blooded animals have to rest a great deal and most are much more sluggish. Speed and agility are elements of warm-blooded qualities. Secondly, we know that birds which are warm-blooded and that they originated from the Dinosaurs. That means that birds either had to evolve warm-bloodedness or that it was already present in earlier species. Sincer there are numerous examples in the Permian of warm-blooded mammal-like reptiles it suggests again that this trait could have carried on in the early Triassic models of dinosaurs. Clearly Dinosaurs were warm-blooded, more dexterious than we were led to believe. Having been a kid when the knowledge base supported clumsy slow-moving cold-blooded animals with tails trailing the ground, supporting their great weight in lagoons and lakes, and watching Deinonychus revolutionize paleontology tells me you need to read the science. Because presently it doesnt support cold-bloodedness

  13. Avatar aristophanes
    aristophanes says:

    By the way a cold-blooded Allosaurus would not be able to maintain speed and dexterity for very long. Ever see a lizard and a mouse run on a treadmill. I have. Mouse keeps up for much longer periods of time. The Lizard is forced to stop numerous times and sometimes is forced off the treadmill. Again this is evidence of the present. We know what cold-bloodedness and warm-bloodness does in various animals. Birds are warm-blooded. Thats why some can survive the winters and why they are agile. Agility is the key ingredient in warm-bloodedness especially for land environments. And from what I can see of Allosaurus looks plenty agile.

    • First, sorry for the slow response here. The site hack really messed stuff up.

      Regarding dromaeosaurs, while Ostrom’s initial interpretation of Deinonychus and kin was of fleet-footed animals, newer interpretations has slowed these guys down a lot. Earlier views that assumed fleet-footed predators (in particular Dodson, Bakker and Paul’s interpretations) have since given way to a slower, more power based animal. The legs were well muscles, but the muscles appear more similar to extant raptors (i.e. birds of prey) than they do to running animals (Fowler et al. 2011). Currently the killing claw has been re-envisioned as a crampon style tool that played a bigger role in maintaining grip on struggling prey rather than as a slashing tool (Manning et al. 2005, Senter 2009).

      Ornithomimids and (possibly) tyrannosaurids seem to be better candidates for fleet-footed runners than dromaeosaurs.

      Regarding the endurance information, I have covered this in depth here, but briefly, the Bennett and Ruben argument that aerobic capacity is what drove “warm-bloodedness”, while the most popular method for explaining the evolution of this suite of physiological traits, is not well backed empirically. Even the lizard data Bennett and Ruben used in their initial 79 paper, was based on a graph that extrapolated a “similar sized” lizard to a “similar sized” mammal. Actual physiological comparisons are few and far between, but in the 30+ years since the initial paper there have been a slew of new comparisons and tests (though rarely direct comparisons) that have challenged the claim that speed, or agility are a “warm-blooded” hallmark. Hicks and Farmer 1999 did a fantastic job showing just how off this idea of the slow reptile is. The authors directly compared empirical data on performance of savannah monitors to “similar sized” mammals running at the same speed. What they found was that aerobic capacity is all over the place regardless of thermophysiology (the monitors showed a lower VO2 max than a similar sized mongoose, but blew away hedgehogs, echidnas and tenrecs of near equal size).

      This last bit of information is important as I know of no study that has actually directly tested endurance in a bradymetabolic animal and a similar sized automatic endotherm. Cases often brought up as examples of superior “warm-blooded” endurance are not even comparable as the criteria for aerobic capacity on a treadmill (usually minutes until exhaustion) varies from test to test, often with the bradymetabolic critters being pushed for longer periods of time than their automatic endotherm compatriots (typically 10 minutes or longer vs. 5 minutes). Other times the comparisons are suspect because what might be a treadmill test for one researcher is a shock test for another (i.e., the animals get electrically shocked until they reach exhaustion; a technique that invites all kinds of other problems such as stress). Then there’s the ever present trend of testing juvenile animals of large reptiles (few endurance tests have been performed on reptiles larger than 1kg) and assuming they are representative of the adults. Comparative physiology is very difficult to do, especially when it is not done to some kind of universal standard.

      While I am just as glad as you to see the removal of the slow and sluggish dinosaur, I did not then, nor do I now, accept the party line that “cold-bloodedness” = slow and sluggish. There are far too many examples to the contrary for that to be true.

      In regards to your last comment I completely agree. There were many parts of Jurassic Fight Club, as well as all the rest of these Discovery/History channel “documentaries” that got on my nerves and made me wonder why they even bothered to pretend to be scientific. I also despised the last dino doc “Dinosaur Planet,” though I could at least respect it for basically being nothing more than creative license to make up dinosaur behaviours and lifestyles.

      References

      Fowler, D.W., Freedman, E.A., Scanella, J.B., Kambric, R.E. 2011. The Predatory Ecology fo Deinonychus and the Origin of Flapping in Birds. PLoS ONE Vol.6(12):e28964

      Hicks, J.W. & Farmer,C.G. 1999. Gas Exchange Potential in Reptilian Lungs: Implications for the Dinosaur-Avian Connection. Resp.Physiol. Vol.117:73-83.

      Manning, P.L., Payne, D., Pennicott, J., Barrett, P.M., Ennos, R.A. 2005. Dinosaur Killer Claws or Climbing Crampons? Biol.Let. Vol.2(1):110-112

      Senter, P. 2009. Pedal Function in Deinonychosaurs (Deinosauria: Theropoda): A Comparative Study. Bull.Gunma.Mu.Nat.Hist. Vol.13:1-14

  14. Avatar aristophanes
    aristophanes says:

    PS: What I objected to in the series was the true BS of describing the dramatized events of the dinosaurs as crime scenes. Referring to Majungasaurus as committing one of the most horrible crimes of the Cretaceous. Animals do not have any ethical systems so they cannot be referred as committing a crime. Survival isnt a crime. Its survival. Humans with their economic, political and social systems are completely removed from the kind of survival we see in modern animals (or we think). We have no predators except ourselves – which we create laws for. Majungasaurus, Allosaurus, Arcturus et al hunted to keep alive and that isnt a crime. If it is I would suggest people stay away from MacDonalds et al. I objected to the deep voice narration, the exaggerated language. The talking heads arent talking heads. Prof. Currie is a foremost figure in the study of T Rex and was responsible for the exciting finds of bird-like raptors (with feathers) in southern China a few years back. They back up some of the science. The dramatizations are a little more sketchy. But then so was Walking with Dinosaurs. I found the formula of starting with a “crime scene” and using the evidence to explain it ending with a dramatization to be a little clunky and repetitive. Unfortunately repeated showing bits from other stories in the series just added to the repetitiveness. The flourishes of fresh air came from the two episodes about Megladon and Arcturus. Because the CGI was restricted to these episodes they werent repetitive. The Series would have done better to explore the range of prehistoric predators rather than restrict itself to just the Carnosaurs

  15. Avatar Harrison Jurenko
    Harrison Jurenko says:

    Listen. I read a lot of literature in the field of paleontology. One of my favorite authors is Donald R. Prothero. In a lot of his books he talks about how when he is invited to do a show as a consultant he does not have any real control over what they say. If you follow DG and listen to his podcast you can see that he does have knowledge in the field and that he too admits that not everything he said was a PROVEN FACT. However, none of it was false. Therefore, although this documentary is misleading, it is not uncommon and should be taken with a grain of salt as with all dinosaur documentaries.