Maximal Aerobic and Anaerobic Power Generation in Large Crocodiles versus Mammals: Implications for Dinosaur Gigantothermy

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Abstract

Inertial homeothermy, the maintenance of a relatively constant body temperature that occurs simply because of large size, is often applied to large dinosaurs. Moreover, biophysical modelling and actual measurements show that large crocodiles can behaviourally achieve body temperatures above 30°C. Therefore it is possible that some dinosaurs could achieve high and stable body temperatures without the high energy cost of typical endotherms. However it is not known whether an ectothermic dinosaur could produce the equivalent amount of muscular power as an endothermic one. To address this question, this study analyses maximal power output from measured aerobic and anaerobic metabolism in burst exercising estuarine crocodiles, Crocodylus porosus, weighing up to 200 kg. These results are compared with similar data from endothermic mammals. A 1 kg crocodile at 30°C produces about 16 watts from aerobic and anaerobic energy sources during the first 10% of exhaustive activity, which is 57% of that expected for a similarly sized mammal. A 200 kg crocodile produces about 400 watts, or only 14% of that for a mammal. Phosphocreatine is a minor energy source, used only in the first seconds of exercise and of similar concentrations in reptiles and mammals. Ectothermic crocodiles lack not only the absolute power for exercise, but also the endurance, that are evident in endothermic mammals. Despite the ability to achieve high and fairly constant body temperatures, therefore, large, ectothermic, crocodile-like dinosaurs would have been competitively inferior to endothermic, mammal-like dinosaurs with high aerobic power. Endothermy in dinosaurs is likely to explain their dominance over mammals in terrestrial ecosystems throughout the Mesozoic. © 2013 Seymour et al.

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Seymour, R. S. (2013). Maximal Aerobic and Anaerobic Power Generation in Large Crocodiles versus Mammals: Implications for Dinosaur Gigantothermy. PLoS ONE, 8(7). https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0069361

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