Here's what an intelligent dinosauroid would really look like

Illustration for article titled Here's what an intelligent dinosauroid would really look like

You know how when you jump into a parallel timeline, or you watch the Super Mario Bros. movie, sometimes dinosaurs have evolved into intelligent creatures? Usually they look like scaly humans - you basic reptoid model of creature. And that's all wrong, according to paleontologist Darren Naish, who points out in an eloquent essay on his blog Tetrapod Zoology that an intelligent dinosaur would have evolved a body shape and size that suited its evolutionary history. So what would that look like? Now, at last, we have an answer. Meet Avisapiens saurotheos, the first scientifically accurate dinosauroid, created by artist Cevdet Kosemen.


Writes Naish on Tetrapod Zoology:

There really isn't any reason to think that big-brained dinosaurs would have evolved in the first place (recall that even ‘big-brained' Troodon was, at best, on par with ostriches and opossums). Even if they had, there is also no reason to think that they would have ended up looking like scaly people… or feathery people, given that we now know that troodontids were feathered … The reason that we humans have the body shape that we do is not – I think – because it's the ‘best' body shape for a smart, big-brained biped to have, it is instead the result of our specific lineage's evolutionary history. Given that, so far as we know, the humanoid body shape has evolved just once, we simply have no way of knowing whether it's a particularly ‘good' morphology or not. Furthermore, the humanoid body shape is not a prerequisite for the evolution of big brains given that brains proportionally as big as, or bigger than, those of hominids are found in some birds and fish (that's right: humans do NOT have the proportionally biggest brains).

With this in mind, my feeling on dinosauroids and intelligent theropods and so on is that – if they were to evolve – they wouldn't look like scaly, or feathery, people, but would instead be far more normal from the theropod point of view. A horizontal body posture, not a vertical one. Digitigrade feet, not plantigrade ones. A long tail, not a reduced one …

I love his point about how we always assume that the human form is the best for intelligent life. We are so biped-centric, people! Read the whole awesome essay at TetZoo!


Naish makes a good point that we humans tend to believe that we have the market cornered on intelligence, mostly because we assume that another species must fit our standard of measurement.

Not every intelligent species will eventually develop technology like we have, but there are numerous extant species that display various qualities of intelligence that is on par with ours, though not in the same way.

Other primates use tools to solve problems, as do some birds. Marine mammals use verbal communication—we can’t understand them but they can understand each other. Marine mammals and the other great apes have also proven capable of understanding our languages. Even my dog has a vocabulary of words he understands. And science has documented that all of the aforementioned animals also have a sense of self.

As for the humanoid body shape, it’s evolved to suit our environment, just like every other animal on the planet. There have been other human species we can assume were at least as intelligent as we are. The Neanderthals left enough artifacts behind to show that they also used tools, produced art, communicated verbally, and had a fairly advanced social structure—all hallmarks of intelligence.

It should be no surprise that they had intelligence similar to ours, because they evolved along the same line that produced us. However, there should be no expectation that another species with a totally different body form should think like us in order to be considered intelligent. This applies both terrestrial and extraterrestrial ones alike.