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Tomorrow Today

Studiogast: Oliver Wings

Our studio guest Oliver Wings is a dinosaur researcher at the Leibniz Institute for Research on Evolution and Biodiversity. He speaks with us about the importance of research on dinosaurs to modern science.

Watch video 03:31

DW:
And here to tell us more on dinosaurs is the paleontologist and the dinosaur hunter, Dr. Oliver Wings. Now we've just heard that dinosaurs were probably endotherm, or warm-blooded. Is that the reason why they were so successful on our planet?


That's one of the reasons, definitely. Warm-blooded animals can very conveniently live in colder climates whereas exotherm animals, like crocodiles or turtles or so, they need a certain temperature to survive.

But that also takes a lot of energy to keep up the temperature.


That's true. And it looks like the large dinosaurs, the sauropod dinosaurs, they had a special solution in that. It seems that they changed during development, from their childhood days until grown adults they have changed the amount of food they need to consume to keep their temperature. The bigger an animal gets, the better is the volume to surface ratio, and the easier it is to keep the energy.

I understand. But still at some point they became extinct. Probably,  it had to do with the asteroid actually hitting the Yucatan penninsula. Is that still the reason also the scientists believe?

First of all, not all dinosaurs went extinct. We have the birds living today. The small therapod dinosaurs, the meat-eating dinosaurs, they survived. If you look at birds, we have 10,000 species of birds today. They are very successful. On the other hand, there has been a major change in the ecosystem. Back then in the cretaceous. We had a global cooling over several millions of years. Many clades, many groups of dinosaurs were actually declining before the meteorite hit Yucatan. The meteorite was just the final blow.

What does that actually tell us about evolution, is it a coming and going of a number of species?

It's a lot of luck also. As the meteroid shows we never know what is coming. Evolution is of course a constant process. All organisms try to adapt as good as possible, not directly, but just inherent in their genes, to their surroundings."
 

Now we, as human beings, we are actually changing our surrounding too.
What can the extinction of the dinosaurs maybe tell us about our own fate on earth?


I think it is inevitable that we will go extinct, but that depends on us, when this will take place. If we continue to change our ecosystem so quickly then it might be sooner than we all hope.

Let's not hope it will get that way. Is there a way back maybe? Is there a chance to breed dinosaurs?

It is impossible to use DNA. Because the DNA decays over a thousand years just because of the background radioactivity. But it might be possible that we can rebreed some of the meat-eating dinosaurs, because of the birds.

That's amazing. When will it be?

Maybe in 100 years.

OK.  We will not experience it. Too bad. Thanks a lot for the talk, Dr. Oliver Wings.