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Intelligent Alien Dinosaurs?

I for one welcome our alien dinosaur overlords…maybe.

Dinosaurs once roamed and ruled the Earth. Is it possible that similar humongous creatures may have evolved on another planet – a world that DIDN’T get smacked by an asteroid – and later they developed to have human-like, intelligent brains? A recent paper discussing why the biochemical signature of life on Earth is so consistent in orientation somehow segued into the possibility that advanced versions of T. Rex and other dinosaurs may be the life forms that live on other worlds. The conclusion? “We would be better off not meeting them,” said scientist Ronald Breslow, author of the paper.

The building blocks of terrestrial amino acids, sugars, and the genetic materials DNA and RNA have two possible orientations, left or right, which mirror each other in what is called chirality. On Earth, with the exception of a few bacteria, amino acids have the left-handed orientation. Most sugars have a right-handed orientation. How did that homochirality happen?

If meteorites carried specific types of amino acids to Earth about 4 billion years, that could have set the pattern the left-handed chirality in terrestial proteins.

“Of course,” Breslow said in a press release, “showing that it could have happened this way is not the same as showing that it did. An implication from this work is that elsewhere in the universe there could be life forms based on D-amino acids and L-sugars. Such life forms could well be advanced versions of dinosaurs, if mammals did not have the good fortune to have the dinosaurs wiped out by an asteroidal collision, as on Earth.”

But not everyone was impressed with the notion of dinosaurs from space. “None of this has anything to do with dinosaurs,” wrote science author Brian Switek in the Smithsonian blog Dinosaur Tracking. “As much as I’m charmed by the idea of alien dinosaurs, Breslow’s conjecture makes my brain ache. Our planet’s fossil record has intricately detailed the fact that evolution is not a linear march of progress from one predestined waypoint to another. Dinosaurs were never destined to be. The history of life on earth has been greatly influenced by chance and contingency, and dinosaurs are a perfect example of this fact.”

For further reading:
American Chemical Society paper
ACS press release
Dinosaur Tracking blog


Nancy Atkinson is currently Universe Today's Contributing Editor. Previously she served as UT's Senior Editor and lead writer, and has worked with Astronomy Cast and 365 Days of Astronomy. Nancy is also a NASA/JPL Solar System Ambassador.

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Typhon1 April 16, 2012, 1:20 PM

    Good grief. It must have bee a slow at the office. Astronomers detect the hint of a possibility of nitrogen/oxygen in a thick atmosphere surrounding a ‘super-Earth’ and we’ve suddenly got Jurassic Park in Outer Space! This isn’t a story from the Sun in Britain is it? I’m all for speculative thinking but why bloody dinosaurs? It’s the same damned story when UT discuses the origin of life on Earth. The usual suspects invoke comets and meteorites and leave it at that never deigning to say where the life on the comets bodies came from originally. Oh, are those fairies at the bottom of my garden I spy? No, just my imagination set afire by imported lager. Phooey!

  • Kawarthajon April 16, 2012, 5:39 PM

    This is a crazy idea. To think that evolution is on such a rigid track that exactly the same species could exist on two planets many light years apart and that removing one catastrophic event would give rise to intelligence! Wouldn’t this mean that the evolutionary track that future species will take will be predictable? Does this guy assume that the alien/intelligent dinosaurs developed from the same DNA as Earth-bound dinosaurs? What about the many other mass extinctions that happened before the dinos were wiped out? Didn’t they change the course of evolution too? Are we assuming that those previous catastrophic events occurred, but the dinosaur extinction did not? And where does this intelligence originate from? The dinos were on the planet for 165,000,000 years (approx) and did not develop into an intelligent species by human standards. How much time would it take? Birds evolved from dinos, but did not develop intelligence until well after the rest of the dinos were gone and even then it was not up to human standards. It is possible that the post-catastrophe world that we live in resulted in the rise of intelligent species because of the unique evolutionary pressures that arose. Maybe intelligence couldn’t have arisen otherwise. We developed our level of intelligence in only a few million years. Intelligence isn’t necessarily an advantage in terms of evolution (think of the tremendously successful beetles, not the brightest bunch).