For the Love of Dinosaurs

May 24, 2010

Torah Kachur

Dinosaurs fascinate us.  They are big, dangerous and mysterious.  They are so mysterious that we don't know why they evolved or why they disappeared.


What is it about these huge monsters that has captivated every young boy since the dawn of story-telling?  It certainly isn't because we hung out with a Pteryodactyl on Earth 2000 years ago.  Their size is certainly part of their allure - the absolute gigantor sizes makes humans, for once, feel meek. 


        Science in Seconds Blog by Torah Kachur Dinosaurs velociraptor tyrannosaurus

Maybe it's the unknown that is fascinating - dinosaurs are immortal.  No matter how long we study them, we can't possibly know all there is.  Even the T-rex may not be as ferocious as Jurassic Park or King Kong would have you believe and that fuels our curiousity and makes us continually seek out dinosaur-lore.


Or maybe our obsession with these megafauna is more rooted in our instinctual relationships.  We share common neural structures with all brained species - in particular the hindbrain that is the foundation of our primitive nature.  In the "Dragons of Eden" Carl Sagan suggested three parts to the brain called the Triune Brain: the Reptilian Complex , the Limbic System and the Neocortex.  The Reptilian complex is composed of the base of the brain - the cerebellum and brainstem, which includes the Cerebral ventricles, Basal Ganglia and Thalamus. 


These brain structures control our fight-or-flight response and is involved in the basic instinctual behaviours such as aggression.  One of the most admired traits of these Jurassic beasts is their ferocity and savageness, traits that we share deep in our primitive brains.  So the next time you lose your cool - just blame it on the little Velociraptor in your head.


Maybe I'm giving us too much credit.  Carl Sagan is way smarter than almost all of us.  Maybe its just that humans are jealous.  Jealous that there was a more dominant, more aggressive, more ferocious creature that ruled the earth for millions of years.



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