Dinosaurs: Warm or Cold Blooded?

Dinosaurs are everybody’s favorite big scary prehistoric bird-monsters. For a long time, folks thought of dinosaurs as reptiles. We now know that isn’t true. But that leads to a new question: were dinosaurs warm or cold blooded? Here’s more from NeuroLogica:

Birds, which are dinosaurs, are very endothermic, even more so than mammals. So the real question is not if dinosaurs were endothermic, but when in their evolution did they become so. One reasonable hypothesis is that the bird clade evolved endothermic metabolism in order to fuel their very high energy lifestyle of flying, so it may be a later development within the bird subgroup. In any case, I gave a short version of that answer, continued to watch the show and vowed to update my knowledge on where the question of dinosaur metabolism lies. By coincidence, a recent study sheds considerable light on this question, possibly settling it, in fact.

Ectothermic vs endothermic metabolism is mostly about how efficiently oxygen is metabolized with fuel in the body to produce energy, which also produces heat as a byproduct. Ectothermic creatures, like modern reptiles, burn oxygen slowly, so that can eat less, breath less, but also are less active. Further, their metabolism does not produce that much heat, so that cannot regulate their own body temperature. They have to use the environment to do so, like basking in the sun. We have a skink as a pet, and you have to provide a warm and cool side to their environment, so that they can use external temperature to regulate their internal temperature.

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