Dinosaurs on a Diet

on June 27, 2009

LiveScience: “Giant Dinosaurs Get Downsized” Dinosaurs: large, terrifying, and surprisingly lightweight?

As far as extinct animals go, dinosaurs are easily the most widely discussed and inspire the most fascination. The mere word conjures up images of the menacing carnivore T. rex towering overhead. But as we have frequently pointed out, the average size of all dinosaurs was probably about like a large sheep or bison—which makes the logistics of fitting dinosaurs on Noah’s Ark all the easier.

The average size of all dinosaurs was probably about like a large sheep or bison.

Now, two new studies suggest that previous calculations of dinosaurs’ weight may have been on the heavy end. The scientists conclude that some dinosaurs were only half as heavy as was previously thought. For instance, the well-known Apatosaurus (which LiveScience describes as “behemoth,” a word used in the Bible in Job 40:15!) was previously estimated to have weighed in at 42 tons (38 t) but by the new calculation is estimated at 20 tons (18 t).

What tipped off Colorado State University’s Gary Packard and Thomas Boardman along with George Mason University’s Geoffrey Birchard was a test of the older calculations on living animals. The resulting tests estimated elephants, for instance, at far heavier than their true mass.

And downsizing dinosaurs’ weights could have long-reaching consequences. Birchard explained, “Think about an animal that big—they would have had to have certain amounts of muscle to move their mass If their mass is lower, the amount of muscle they would have had to have is significantly less. The amount of oxygen they would need could be interpreted to be much less because there’s much less tissue to supply with oxygen.”

He continued, “They were still huge animals, I don’t think anyone would dispute that. They might be half as big, but half of something that’s really huge is still really huge.” A recently found allosaurus tooth—nearly 4 inches (10 cm) long—corroborates that.

Creationists have already answered logistical questions about how dinosaur representatives could have fit on the Ark. For one thing, not all species of dinosaur needed to be on board, but instead only two of every dinosaur kind (a taxonomic group roughly equivalent to the family designation). For another thing, the dinosaurs on the Ark may have been juvenile—and thus less than their full (adult) size.

Finally, as noted above, the average size of all dinosaurs is estimated (based on fossils) to have been about like that of a large sheep or bison. The discovery that scientists have overestimated dinosaurs’ weight (and perhaps, consequently, their necessary muscle mass) further increases the plausibility of dinosaurs on Noah’s Ark.


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Answers in Genesis is an apologetics ministry, dedicated to helping Christians defend their faith and proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ effectively. We focus on providing answers to questions about the Bible—particularly the book of Genesis—regarding key issues such as creation, evolution, science, and the age of the earth.