So while palaeontologists claim to know everything about whichever extinct species they specialize in, they really don’t. Matter of fact, we don’t know anything about prehistoric species; or rather, we know very little about them. All we can do is speculate.
We have their bones, so we can tell which ones were carnivores, herbivores or omnivores.
We can tell if they walked on two or four legs, or a combination of the two.
We can tell roughly how big each species got.
We can estimate their weight, based on a whole bunch of factors which relate to the fossils themselves.
And sometimes, we can tell male from female.
That’s about it. Literally.
Everything else is complete speculation and highly educated guesses (don’t quote me on that, a lot of palaeontologists will hate me for saying it but it’s true).
If you think taking your dinosaur-enthusiast of a child to a palaeontological debate is a good idea, don’t. Palaeontologists may be friendly towards the public, but when it comes to debates, the organisers always pick the scientists with opposing views and let’s just say they don’t always play nice with one another. Palaeontology stops being a science and turns into an argument when one man corrects or opposes another.
But back to the topic at hand.
Being multicellular organisms, vertebrates no less, we can safely say that dinosaurs had hearts which pumped blood to different parts of the body through veins. As animals, we can all too safely say that they had digestive systems, which we can say started at the mouth and ended at the rectal area (this system would obviously not be all that different from our digestive system).
But as to where the stomach was in relation to the heart and lungs? Was it at the base of the spine, sitting above the intestines, or did it bounce around in the bottom of the belly?
In the end, we’ll never really know for sure… at least, not until someone clones or finds a live dinosaur.
A little while back, National Geographic did a mocumentary (a documentary but with a lot of acting and whatnot) about what it would be like to dissect a Tyrannosaurus rex, they called the show “T-rex Autopsy”. It didn’t really get much acclaim or push any newfangled theories to the eyes of the public, it more or less just put together everything we think we know about dinosaur biology. Not for the feint of heart, but certainly interesting enough to keep one watching (note, you might want to turn the annotations off at the start).
This has been Dinosaur Anatomy, this has been me, and you’ve been reading Palaeontology Made Easy.