One of the earliest dinosaurs ever discovered and classified was the Stegosaurus in 1877. This great creature possessed an unusually small brain, literally the size of a walnut. It was so small, in fact, that paleontologists once speculated that it must have had a supplementary brain in its butt. It doesn't help researchers either, that dinosaurs went extinct about 65 million years ago, wiped out by famine and freezing temperatures. It's fun to think that if these animals had only been smarter some of them, anyway, might have found a way to survive.
Without any dinosaurs around today, how do scientists actually measure their intelligence? It's not as if an IQ test can be administered to them. Naturalists have, thankfully, developed an indirect method of evaluating the intelligence of extinct animals (it works on living ones, too). "The Encephalization Quotient, or EQ, measures the size of a creature's brain against the size of the rest of its body, and compares this ratio to that of other species of roughly the same size."
Part of what makes humans so smart is the enormous size of your brain compared to body size. The average human's EQ is an impressive 5. If you're thinking that sounds low, let's take a look at some other animals by comparison on the EQ scale: "wildebeests weigh in at .68, African elephants at .63, and opossums at .39. As you might expect, monkeys have higher EQs: 1.5 for a red colobus, 2.5 for a capuchin. Dolphins are the only animals on the planet with EQs even close to those of humans; the bottlenose comes in at 3.6." As you might expect, the EQ of dinosaurs is spread across the lower end of the spectrum. Triceratops come in at a scant .11. Even with this low score, they might be considered the "valedictorians" of the dino class! The Brachiosaurus doesn't even come close to hitting the .1 mark. "However, some of the swift, two-legged, feathered dinosaurs of the Mesozoic Era posted relatively high EQ scores—not quite as smart as modern wildebeests, but not that much dumber, either."
You might be wondering if the carnivorous dinosaurs were any smarter. As a general rule, a creature only has to be smart enough to prosper in its given ecosystem and avoid being eaten. What this means is that the plant-eating sauropods were so "massively dumb" that the predators who ate them had to be only marginally smarter. In fact, most of the relative increase in the brain size of these carnivores can be attributed to their need for better smell, vision and muscular coordination, their tools for the hunt. if you really think about it, the sauropods had to be only a smidgeon smarter than the massive ferns they dined on.
If some of the dinosaurs had actually survived, it is hypothesized that the Troondon, a human-sized dino with the intelligence level of an opossum, might have eventually evolved a human-size brain, as well. But only if it had survived for another several million years. The dinosaurs portrayed in movies like Jurassic Park who could turn doorknobs and hunted in packs are a complete fantasy. In reality, they might have been as smart as chicken...only a lot more dangerous! They would not, however, have been smart enough to learn to do tricks. Their EQ level was WAY below that of a dog or cat. It's safe to say, then, that dinosaurs wouldn't have made very good pets.
If you consider yourself to be an advocate of good environmental stewardship, you won't want want to miss tomorrow's blog. Please plan on stopping by. Until then, I wish you