Robert Bakker (right) teaching at the HMNS
Bergen County, New Jersey
The "Dinosaur renaissance"
Robert T. Bakker (born March 24, 1945, in Bergen County, New Jersey) is an American paleontologist who helped reshape modern theories about dinosaurs, particularly by adding support to the theory that some dinosaurs were endothermic (warm-blooded). Along with his mentor John Ostrom, Bakker was responsible for initiating the ongoing "dinosaur renaissance" in paleontological studies, beginning with Bakker's article "Dinosaur Renaissance" in Scientific American, April 1975. His special field is the ecological context and behavior of dinosaurs.
Bakker has been a major proponent of the theory that dinosaurs were "warm-blooded," smart, fast, and adaptable. He published his first paper on dinosaur endothermy in 1968. He revealed the first evidence of parental care at nesting sites for Allosaurus. Bakker was among the advisors for the film Jurassic Park and for the 1992 PBS series, The Dinosaurs. Bakker also observed evidence in support of Eldredge's and Gould's theory of punctuated equilibrium in dinosaur populations.
At Yale University, Bakker studied under John Ostrom, an early proponent of the new view of dinosaurs, and later gained a PhD at Harvard. He began by teaching anatomy at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland. Most of his field work has been done in Wyoming, especially at Como Bluff, but he has ranged as far as Mongolia and South Africa in pursuit of dinosaur habitats.
In Bakker's 1986 work The Dinosaur Heresies Bakker puts forth the theory that dinosaurs were warm-blooded, his evidence for which includes:
- Almost all animals that walk upright today are warm-blooded, and dinosaurs walked upright.
- The hearts of warm-blooded animals can pump much more effectively than the hearts of cold-blooded animals. Therefore, the giant Brachiosaurus must have had the type of heart associated with warm-blooded animals, in order to pump blood all the way up to its head.
- Dinosaurs such as Deinonychus led a very active life, which is much more compatible with a warm-blooded animal.
- Some dinosaurs lived in northern latitudes where it would be impossible for cold-blooded dinosaurs to keep warm, though critics point out that the northern latitudes were warmer in the days of dinosaurs than today.
- The rapid rate of speciation and evolution found in dinosaurs is typical of warm blooded animals and atypical of cold blooded animals.
- The predator/prey ratio of predatory dinosaurs to their prey is a signature trait of warm blooded predators rather than cold blooded ones.
- Birds are warm blooded. Birds evolved from dinosaurs, therefore a change to a warm blooded metabolism must have taken place at some point; there is far more change between dinosaurs and their ancestors the archosaurs than between dinosaurs and birds.
- Warm blooded metabolisms are evolutionary advantages for top predators and large herbivores; if the dinosaurs had not been warm blooded there should be fossil evidence showing mammals evolving to fill these ecological niches. No such evidence exists; in fact mammals by the end of the Cretaceous had become smaller and smaller from their mammal-like-reptile ancestors.
- Dinosaurs grew rapidly, evidence for which can be found by observing cross-sections of their bones.
His novel Raptor Red tells of a year in the life of a female Utahraptor of the lower Cretaceous. In the story, Bakker elaborates on his knowledge of the behavior of dromaeosaurids ("raptor" dinosaurs) and life at the time of their existence.
His book The Dinosaur Heresies first propelled him to popular attention.
- ^ "NJEA honors outstanding N.J. public school grads", NJEA Reporter, October 2007, Volume 51, Number 2. Accessed July 9, 2008. "A 1963 graduate of Ridgewood High School in Bergen County, Bakker credits the Dec. 7, 1953 issue of Life Magazine, which he unearthed at his grandfather’s house, for his interest in dinosaurs."
- Interview with Bakker
- Bio article with information about his then-new book on creationism, theology, Saint Augustine vs. evolution
- Photograph of Bakker at Como Bluff, Wyoming from Encyclopedia Britannica's Discovering Dinosaurs
- A biographical article by Tony Campagna
- An overview of modern paleontology which devotes a couple paragraphs and pictures to Bakker
- Bakker's beard .
- Curator profile