The familiar picture of the plodding, cold-blooded, dim-witted dinosaur inching his way through steamy swamps may look nice in coloring books and Saturday morning cartoons, but according to a leading paleontologist who spoke last night at Yenching Library, scholars in the field should know better.
In a brief, humorous speech broadcast live to 162 colleges nationwide, University of Colorado paleontologist Dr. Robert Bakker said his evidence supports the theory that dinosaurs were actually warm-blooded, fast-moving social creatures who thrived in dry, cold climates.
According to Bakker's evidence, dinosaurs also varied in intellectual capacity, cared for their young and are most closely related to modern-day birds--not reptiles, as has been traditionally thought.
Bakker said that evidence in support of his theory is not new, yet it has been largely ignored because it doesn't "fit" with turn-of-the-century notions of dinosaurs that have persisted to this day.
"It's science by label," said Bakker, "and labeling is a very powerful influence on research. If you define a dinosaur as a reptile, you don't have to think about it anymore."
The most likely cause of their demise, said Bakker, touching on another dinosaur controversy, was not a meteor or a sudden temperature change, but a disease of epidemic proportions. "I see dinosaurs as not going out with a bang, but going out with diarrhoea," said Bakker.
Bakker's lecture was followed by a brief call-in question-and-answer period and a screening of "The Great Dinosaur Hunt," a special in "The Infinite Voyage" television series. The lecture and film were beamed live to colleges campuses across the country and also will be aired January 4 on PBS.