dinosaurs aren’t animals!

Yeah. I heard that on the radio when driving into Grinnell on Friday. As I was flipping through stations, I overheard a radio “personality” declaring that, in fact, dinosaurs are not animals. Two of her fellow radio people agreed, though one kept insisting that they were wrong. They asked some guy with whom they were talking on the phone and he authoritatively agreed that, nope, dinosaurs are not animals.

After a moment of dumbstruck silence, I burst out laughing. What in the hell did they think a dinosaur was?

At the top(ish) level of the classification hierarchy, the familiar Kingdoms (recall King Phillip and his penchant for Coming Over uninvited to eat your Great Spaghetti (or for Groping Softly ( etc ) ) ?) are:

  1. Euabacteria
  2. Archaebacteria
  3. Protista
  4. Fungi
  5. Plant

I expect that if this list of possibilities was presented to those radio people they would be more likely to realize that, in fact, dinosaurs are animals. They certainly aren’t plants, fungi, or single-celled organisms!

I would guess that the silliness leading to the radio hosts’ claim comes from (1) general scientific ignorance and, more interestingly, (2) the fact that people generally think of mammals and birds when picturing an “animal”. I admit that, every once in a while, I have to remind myself that nematode worms and weird arthropods are, in fact, animals. But even the most basic knowledge of taxonomy would lead anyone to the right place and, with Wikipedia around, what’s the hosts’ excuse?