Between Fit And Lucky, Choose Lucky

If You’re a Dinosaur, Anyway

Unless you think the Archbishop of Ussher was correct (and I don’t) the human animal has been around in its present form for something over 200,000 years, depending on how you define human and “present form”. Evidence suggests (strongly) that dinosaurs were around for a considerably longer period of time, something on the order of 135 million years. Pretty good survival record.

A true Darwinist would say that this is pretty good indication that dinosaurs we’re pretty fit creatures (or, more precisely, that they fit their environment well). A good post-modernist would say that they were very diverse (and thus fit a multi-faceted, dynamic environment). But there is research that says maybe they didn’t. Maybe they were just lucky.

So the finding shows that the crurotarsans were more diverse in terms of their lifestyle, diet and habitat — they filled more ecological niches and were, if anything, the more successful of the two groups in the late Triassic. “The dinosaurs didn’t find a way to squeeze into the crurotarsans’ role,” he said.

But then at the end of the Triassic, for some unknown reason the dinosaurs survived while almost all the crurotarsans did not. “There was a certain amount of luck involved,” Dr. Benton said. “One group got pretty much wiped out and another group soldiered on and took off. The dinosaurs finally got their chance.”

In this day and age it’s pretty easy to think that intelligence, or at least, the kind of thought processes that pass for intelligence on this planet, hasn’t exactly proven itself as a good survival trait yet. Perhaps it will, someday, with a little luck (or divine providence).  Darwin, however, does not exactly appear to be a theory that explains the observations very well, at least not without severe modification.

Correction: Missing link to NYT article added.

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