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HUMOR: Impossibly Huge Dinos: Mystery Solved!

forwarded from sci.bio.paleontology with permission

> Impossibly Huge Dinos: Mystery Solved!
> by Hugh Johnson
> Every paleontologist is acutely aware of the problem. Even casual science 
> buffs scratch their heads over it. The question is this: How do you explain 
> Sauropods too huge to lug their weight around, and Pterosaurs too heavy to 
> alight for flight?
> I believe I have found the answer in higher physics. I began looking to 
> physics with the idea that density fluctuations of weakly interacting massive 
> particles (WIMPs), popularly known as 'dark matter', may have slowly changed 
> the earth's gravitational constant over millions of years, and that 
> everything may have weighed less eons ago. Unfortunately, this turned out to 
> be an unworkable hypothesis, since the outward pull of extra-atmospheric 
> WIMPs would offset the inward pull of WIMPs orbiting the earth's core or 
> passing through our bodies. However, it was during my perusal of the physics 
> literature that I stumbled upon this astonishing set of seemingly unrelated 
> facts:
> 1) The controversial Pons-Fleischmann cell -- the famous mechanism of cold 
> fusion power generation -- resembles nothing so much as a large animal's 
> gizzard; a flask-like container full of spheroids, bathed in a continually 
> replenishing watery medium.
> 2) Heavy atomic isotopes were more common on earth when the planet was young. 
> These isotopes included deuterium, the major constituent of 'heavy water' and 
> the fuel used in fusion reactions.
> 3) Helium is a major byproduct of deuterium fusion reactions.
> 4) Helium is an inert, very lightweight element, which does not combine into 
> chemical compounds and which cannot be trapped in the earth's gravity well 
> over long periods of time. A helium atom, left undisturbed, will always find 
> its way to the outer fringes of the earth's atmosphere, where it will be 
> blown away by the faint solar wind. Thus, science has never been able to 
> explain the presence of helium in deposits of natural gas and other fossil 
> fuels.
> 5) Sauropods bear a striking resemblance to helium-filled blimps and 
> dirigibles.
> With these facts in mind, I now assert -- contrary to conventional wisdom -- 
> that sauropod dinosaurs were NOT built like absurdly huge "fermentation 
> vats", designed to digest primitive plants. Rather, they began their 
> evolutionary odyssey as unremarkable-looking creatures who developed the 
> trick of producing energy by nuclear fusion. A simple mutation of the gizzard 
> is all it would take to set them apart from the iguanadons and hadrosaurs. We 
> can imagine these unremarkable beasts stationed beside a watering-hole, 
> drinking and urinating a steady stream, drawing energy from heavy water while 
> fulfilling their modest protein needs with pond scum and bottom silt. Their 
> necks grew longer to reach deeper water as the heavy isotopes grew scarce. 
> Eventually, their necks were so long and unwieldy that they could not walk 
> without lightening the load somehow, and that's when they began storing 
> helium in their little-used gastrointestinal tracts.
> For millions of years, they existed as balloon-like floaters, at the mercy of 
> the winds. When the weather cooperated, they would hover head-down above the 
> water, regularly lowering themselves for a drink by expelling helium from 
> their gas-bag colons. However, the slightest breeze could take them away, and 
> as desertification spread, with fewer ponds dotting the land, this became an 
> increasing threat. Obviously, they needed their own propulsion and control, 
> as sure as balloons evolve into dirigibles. This is where their symbiotic 
> relationship with pterosaurs comes in.
> A one-sided relationship had already developed. The pterosaurs doubtless 
> began as simple surface-swimmers, diving for fish and jumping up onto the 
> jutting perch-like sauropod legs when the nose-down sauropods were 
> half-submerged. The pterosaurs learned that if they stayed on those perches 
> while the sauropods rose back into the air, they would get a broader aerial 
> view of the fish, and they could dive with more certainty of making a catch.  
> Membranes of skin evolved to give them a wider glide-path on their dives.  
> Eventually, the membranes became wings, and the pterosaurs helped the 
> sauropods to fight the winds, like propellers on a powered balloon, so the 
> whole symbiotic rookery could remain safely over water.
> The one problem remaining for the pterosaurs was their lack of control over 
> altitude. They grew too big and heavy themselves to provide lift; their role 
> was strictly propulsion and directional control. However, the sauropod's 
> stumpy tail provided a perch for one pterosaur to stopper the gas-bag with 
> its beak, thus controlling emissions. This solution then brought a problem of 
> its own: Who wants to be the loser sitting up their with his face buried in a 
> giant anus, while everyone else is out fishing? Thus, the pterosaurs began to 
> prefer long-tailed sauropods, so that more than one of them could perch there 
> and take turns with altitude-control responsibilities.
> Over time, the sauropod's lengthening tail balanced the weight of its neck, 
> and the flight angle changed. The pterosaurs abandoned their perches on the 
> legs and took up positions only on the neck and tail. Aerodynamics improved 
> vastly as the whole assemblage began to look more and more like a sleek 
> powered airship. Huge fleets of sauropod/pterosaur dirigibles became a common 
> sight far inland, as they searched for new watering holes to exploit.  
> Watering holes became mere base-camps, as the pterosaurs learned dry-land 
> hunting skills, and grew increasingly adventurous, and spread a reign of 
> terror everywhere. But this was their undoing.
> Too many times, the pterosaurs pushed their luck, feeling cocky and in 
> control. They rode their giant flying steeds too far from water. The helium 
> ran low; the creatures were stranded, all of them too heavy to budge on their 
> own. And what little helium was left, well, that's what we find in our fossil 
> fuel deposits -- the graves of those poor misguided aeronauts so long ago.
> And that's exactly how it happened. And you heard it here first.
> hugh ? semplicesoft ? com

Flying Goat Graphics
(Society of Vertebrate Paleontology member)