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In the Jurassic Park movies dinosaurs are portrayed as super predators, but how would they realistically do in our modern world if cloned?

The 65 million years of evolution that separates us might not be so much relatively. But still, dinosaurs are notorious for having a small brain. So they won't be too smart, but also their capability to process visual information must be limited. Also their sense of smell and hearing might be inferior to modern mammals.

So how well would dinosaurs prevail today if cloned and set free like in the movies?

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    $\begingroup$ Dinosaurs are not true reptiles and are thought to be smarter than most lizards (though maybe not as smart as those in Jurassic park). $\endgroup$ Jul 7, 2022 at 17:05
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    $\begingroup$ Jurassic park also got wrong how dinosaur vision works. As far as scans of the brain cavity and size of structures goes, T-Rex had vision on par with that of modern raptors, while also having a keen sense of smell on part with that of modern animals. If anything, many dinosaurs likely had a lot in common with modern birds. As for brain size, we must also attempt to a matter of proportion: T-Rexes had relatively tiny brains: An adult T-Rex's brain was larger than both a human's and that of most dinosaurs of its time, but was proportionally smaller than ours given their size. $\endgroup$ Jul 7, 2022 at 17:39
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    $\begingroup$ @ProjectApex The book had a reason for the vision. It discussed fusing in DNA from modern animals to fill in the spots that were too degraded to use. I believe one dinosaur (may have even been T-rex) had a bit of frog DNA that resulted in its vision having a movement trigger involved. But there was no "It can't see us if we don't move!" stupidity in the book. $\endgroup$ Jul 7, 2022 at 21:05
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    $\begingroup$ Your question is based on a false premise. And the implication that mammals are the only animals that successfully persist in the world is obviously false. Mammals do not have the best of all senses. Birds have better acuity vision while insects have both faster vision and superior smell, and both have smaller brains than mammals. $\endgroup$
    – DKNguyen
    Jul 7, 2022 at 22:54

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First off, we do have dinosaurs today - we just call them birds. They seem to do quite well in our world.

Of course, birds co-evolved with the rest of the world and so are well adapted to their various environments (recent anthropogenic changes notwithstanding.) Jurassic-era dinosaurs wouldn't have that benefit, as they would be adapted to different environments. They would, essentially, be invasive species. How would they fare? Really depends on the dino and what present day environment they are introduced to. Generalizers tend to do better than specializers in new environments (so probably a no-go for the T-Rex... it'll probably starve out.)

In any case, intelligence is unlikely be the deciding factor. There are some very smart birds, so there's no reason to think that some Jurassic era dinosaurs might not have been quite smart too. More to the point though, there's a lot of very dumb animals in our word that persist just fine - intelligence is overated :)

If there is to be one overarching aspect, it wouldn't be intelligence but rather air. While environments vary, air is pretty uniform across the globe. And the Jurassic had approximately 50% more oxygen than the present day, so dinosaurs may all suffer from altitude sickness which would no doubt reduce their survival chances. That just tilts the scales against them though; some may still be able to adapt, survive, and even thrive.

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    $\begingroup$ Lots of pretty stupid invasive animals do entirely too well. Rabbits in Australia, for instance, or Starlings in North America. Ability to reproduce faster than predators can eat them is more important than brains. $\endgroup$
    – Zeiss Ikon
    Jul 7, 2022 at 18:05
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    $\begingroup$ "The Jurassic had approximately 50% more oxygen than the present day": Citation needed. (And please don't say "air bubbles in amber", because that was discarded.) AFAIK the common view is that oxygen levels were lower than today in the days when the big dinosaurs roamed the land, (For example].) WIth some uncertainty, but the uncertainty is nowhere near 50%. $\endgroup$
    – AlexP
    Jul 7, 2022 at 19:59
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    $\begingroup$ "Generalizers tend to do better than specializers in new environments (so probably a no-go for the T-Rex... it'll probably starve out.)" It is not uncommon that invasive predators become the apex predator in the new environment. $\endgroup$
    – Avun Jahei
    Jul 8, 2022 at 22:56
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Evolution is not about being smart.

enter image description here

This is a dragonfly. It's certainly not the brightest creature on earth, nor is it the strongest, or the one with the best hearing. Why am I talking about a dragonfly in a question about dinosaurs? Because these guys are successful. In fact, they're so successful they exist in every continent that they can live in for at least part of the year (which here means that if you don't want to risk meeting a dragonfly ever, antarctica is your only choice), and it's not crazy to speculate that it has been that way for the past 300 MILLION YEARS. These guys are so well adapted to what they do that they look nearly identical to what they did hundreds of millions of years ago, apart from size, and are currently the most efficient predators known to man, with a 97% sucess rate while hunting, and will hunt anything and everything that moves and is small enough for them to catch and eat. Them, alongside sharks and crocodilians, are the BIAP trinity or "baby I'm already perfect", because all 3 groups of creatures are already so adapted to their niches that they basically no longer need to change in any major way. These 3 groups of creatures, being still around today, have also survived some, if not most of all mass extinction events that ever happened, and not a single one of them is known for their smarts. In fact, smarts as a Trait is not necessarily an advantage, and can actually be a detrimental thing to have, because the smarter you are and the bigger your brain is, the more energy it'll take to function, our brains being proportionally the most expensive organ to maintain and supply. A predator doesn't need to be smarter than every human genius combined to be successful. More often than not, it only needs to be smarter than its prey at best (which is probably an explanation as to why T-Rexes had pretty large brains compared to the creatures of their time).

What you seemingly fail to understand is that evolution doesn't work like machine evolution where newer = better as a rule. Just because dinosaurs existed millions of years ago doesn't mean they're necessarily inferior to modern creatures. In fact, for example, pterosaurs can easily be considered the "superior" group of flying vertebrates in certain ways, as they were capable of reaching megafauna sizes while still being able to fly, a feat that birds and bats are simply not equipped to achieve, their largest ancestors to have ever been discovered still being dwarfed by many pterosaur species. Many predatory dinosaurs had senses as developed as those of modern predators, if not better.

The problem with certain dinosaurs today is the same as the problem with many types of megafauna: a t-rex could easily kill an elephant in a confrontation, but due to its size, it could never do so without ambushing them, as T-Rexes couldn't ever outrun an elephant that wasn't already fairly sick or old. The fact that they were large animals living in a time with somewhat plentiful megafauna also means that they'd likely starve today, as currently most creatures are too small and too nimble to serve as suitable prey. Similarly, many giant forests no longer exist, so larger plant eating dinosaurs could also struggle greatly.

Summing up: smarts aren't the main problem. One doesn't need to be smart to succeed unless they're in an environment that has smartness as a strong selective pressure, and the smartest creature will have their brains go to waste in an environment where the costs of big brain power are greater than the benefits such brain power can offer. More importantly, it's about whether the creature you're bringing back is capable of living in the place you're putting it in regarding its niche and adaptations. A modern armadillo will still die if you put it in a place it's not adapted to survive in, such as a cold region, while Meganeura, the largest flying insect ever, would die if brought back to a modern world equivalent of its habitat, not because it's too dumb or not adapted enough, but simply because there's not enough oxygen in the atmosphere to sustain it anymore. Many smaller dinosaurs could and likely would thrive if put in an environment similar to the one they're adapted to (in fact, as we can see in modern invasive species, there's even a risk that certain dinosaurs could adapt too well to certain regions, becoming damaging to the pre-established populations), but larger dinosaurs, carnivorous or not, could easily struggle to maintain their bodies in a world where their niches are mostly gone.

That said move on losers, the niches occupied by giant pterosaurs are mostly still around and this time there's no meteor-induced famine to stop their continued existence. Bring forth the re-rise of flying megafauna!

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Here is a frame challenge.

Most dinsoaurs weren't predators. Most dinosaurs were herbivores. Other dinosaurs were omnivores. Only a minority of dinosaurs were carnivores.

There are plenty of non carnivorous dinsaurs in the Jurassic Park movies. But when their containment failed they didn't run around eating people, so you might not have noticed them enough.

I suspect that if cloning dinosaurs becomes possible, people will want to start out with cloning small herbivores, than larger herbivores, then maybe giant herbivores, then maybe small omnivores, and so on. And if they ever get to cloning large carnivores, with will be after having a lot of practice with less dangerous dinosaurs.

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  • $\begingroup$ This is true for modern animals as well. Due to energy losses, the number of predators will always be lower than prey. $\endgroup$
    – Trang Oul
    Jul 8, 2022 at 5:18
  • $\begingroup$ Here's a frame challenge to your frame challenge: usually hervibores are more dangerous to humans than predators. A boar, a bull or a deer may attack you far more likely than a wolf would. And there's higher chances of carnivores being domesticable. Wouldn't you like a velociraptor pet? :) $\endgroup$
    – Rekesoft
    Jul 8, 2022 at 12:16
  • $\begingroup$ @Rekesoft in what world are carnivores more likely to be domesticated, in antiquity humans have only domesticated one obligate carnivore (cats), one facultative carnivore we bred for eating less meat ( dogs) and maybe mongooses, everything else was either an omnivore or an herbivore. $\endgroup$
    – John
    Jul 8, 2022 at 21:35
  • $\begingroup$ @John Everything else is domesticated, though? We've being breeding horses, cows or pigs for centuries, and you still have to castrate nearly all males to reduce (not eliminate) the possibility that they attack you. Herbivores are usually too dumb to be domesticated; best case scenario, having them well fed makes them less hostile. That's way cats and dogs are pets, but cows and pigs are cattle. $\endgroup$
    – Rekesoft
    Jul 9, 2022 at 17:59
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Evolution does not favor intelligence and some of the most sucessful animals of all time... animals that have remained relatively unchanged by evolution for millions of years do not need to be smarter to catch their prey. The Alligators split from Crocodiles sometime during the Late Cretatious period. The American Alligator is an Apex Predator and an Ecosystem Engineer (A class of animals that's behavior creates or modifies the habitats of other species.) and it's been doing it's thing for 65 million years. Great White Sharks are just as old and unchanged. But true champions of animal evolution include the coelacanth, the Elephant Shark (400 million years old and barely any change), and the Horseshoe Crab (445 million years ago!). For a point of comparison Dinosaurs first appeared probably 243 Million years ago!

The point of all this is that Real Life is not like Pokemon! Evolution does not favor progressively superior designs. It favors survival. If your sepecies has been around for twice as long as Dinosaurs and Mammials combined... you have to be doing something right.

But we also know Dinosaurs were highly competative with Mammials because mammials split from reptiles sometime during the Triassic period, when Dinosaurs were young... and there wasn't much evidence of mammals larger than rodent size from then to the Cretaceous period. Likely because Dinosaurs and Reptiles were better at doing a lot of things than proto-mammals and mammals did. But mammals were better at surviving giant asteroid impacts and resulting climate changes than Dinosaurs and reptiles so Mic-Drop (in fact, the reason why mammals took off were that flightless birds tended to lay their eggs on the ground... which were tasty snacks for many of the new mammals who didn't have that problem as they gave live birth starting in the late Cretaceous.

But the point is evolution favors the best suited and simplest design for survival, not for better intellect. And in many ways, intellect is not an efficient design (why human intellect is so much more advanced is because humans actually needed it it to fit their evolution niche of being creatures that specialized in killing things with projectiles. An average great Ape adult can throw an baseball sized object at a speed of 20 mph. An average adult human can throw the same baseball at 60 mph. And if they train to do it, they can do 90-100 mph. It was a surprise to animals that were designed for predators that previously favored melee... but it required understanding how objects in motion behaved.).

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    $\begingroup$ There were a lot of other reasons our niche(s) selected for intelligence besides throwing/shooting -- ability to pass learning down generations (better than apes or crows, even) is high on that list. Crows and apes can make tools -- but their children don't usually learn to do so from them. Humans have been doing this since before speech (speech may have evolved for this specific need). $\endgroup$
    – Zeiss Ikon
    Jul 7, 2022 at 19:22
  • $\begingroup$ That's a good point, if mammals were superior in their abilities they would have tens of millions of years to become the dominant specieses and slowly displace dinosaurs... $\endgroup$
    – Walter
    Jul 7, 2022 at 21:32
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    $\begingroup$ @ZeissIkon Other animals communicate with vocalization (Dogs/Wolves, Prairie Dogs, Elephants, Dolphins/Whales, Many Species of Birds, even insects). Most animals use this to attract mates of course. Humans just have the most complex sequence of vocal communications of any animal. (Fun fact: Golden Retrievers can understand a vocabulary of words on par with a human toddler.). $\endgroup$
    – hszmv
    Jul 8, 2022 at 11:11
  • $\begingroup$ @hszmv My partner has a Rottweiler that understands complete sentences, including remembering long enough to respond to "What did I just tell you?" $\endgroup$
    – Zeiss Ikon
    Jul 8, 2022 at 13:07
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    $\begingroup$ @ZeissIkon, The Domesticated Cat is actually thought to "Meow" because it's adapting to communicating with humans. Most Felines communicate with each other using body language and are not as vocal as the House Cat. Since humans are vocal, house cats adopted vocal communications to signal to humans their wants and needs. $\endgroup$
    – hszmv
    Jul 8, 2022 at 13:58

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