• Fraser du Toit

Dale Russel's Dinosauroid [speculative evolution]

Who doesn't love a good lizard person story? This article isn't about the crazy conspiracy world of David Icke. We're dealing with something far more plausible. The year was 1982, and Professor Dale Russel came up with a fun thought experiment concerning the speculative evolution of a species of Troodontid dinosaurs. These eerie lizard boys will haunt my nightmares, and now yours, for days to come.

Bigger Brains, Eventually

While Troodontids weren't nearly as smart as the standard monkey-based person today, they were smarter than the standard dinosaur. Paleontologists in the '80s were just discovering that dinosaurs were smarter than they thought. This evolution in thinking comes from the development of EQ (Encephalization Quotient) measuring techniques.

EQ, in this case, refers to the technique of comparing the relative size of an animal's brain with its body size. This ratio is then compared to animals of a similar size and the result is used as a measure of intelligence. Humans, that's you, have an impressive EQ of 5. That's because of our incredibly beefy brains and relatively scrawny bodies. Let's put that into perspective, Capuchin monkeys have an EQ of 2.5, elephants score a 0.63 and dolphins have a 3.6. EQ is by no means a perfect science though, but it is a good tool for speculation

Dinosaurs are generally pretty stupid if their EQs are to be believed. The massive herbivores like the triceratops had a groundbreaking score of 0.11, while the truly huge brachiosaurus barely reaches 0.1. Velociraptors, long-held by Hollywood as the smartest of saurians, were probably slightly smarter than a chicken.

You can tell by the way I use my walk, I'm a chicken man, bawk bawk bakawk!

Enter the Troodontid, Stenonychosaurus, a small (0.9 m) carnivorous dinosaur with a big brain. These predators had the largest brain, in comparison to their bodies, of all dinosaurs. While the Stenonychosaurus' brain was small compared to a human brain, it was nearly six times larger than that of the average dinosaur. That's about as smart as modern birds. Dale concluded that had these dinosaurs not gone extinct, their brains would have continued to grow. By now, their brains would be comparable to that of a small human.

Scaly Humanoid

The term humanoid refers to a creature that has human-like features but isn't human. Stenonychosaurus might look like a bird, but according to Russel's speculation, it could have easily developed into something very much like us. Features like binocular vision and an opposable digit on their hand make this a likely candidate for convergent evolution.

Russel speculated that as the size of the Troodontids' brains grew, so too would their skulls expand backward. Heavier heads would favor the shortening of their necks. Shorter, thicker necks would likely orient themselves vertically, as they do in humans and other apes. Vertical necks would work best on a vertical body plan, and so the rest of the spine would conform. Troodontids' upright-bipedal posture would have decreasing need of a long tail, and so the tail would eventually disappear, as they did in modern apes.

Their snouts would recede into a short turtle-like beak. Russel hypothesized that the modern dinosauroid would give live birth, like some other birds and reptiles do. This is a departure from its ancestor, which laid eggs. The change would occur due to the long gestation period associated with larger brain mass. Dinosauroids would have a navel like mammals, but they would lack the mammary glands to feed their young. They would likely opt to feed their young by regurgitating into their mouths like birds.

Troodontid dinosauroids would have internal genitalia like crocodiles and skin similar to a snake's.

K-T Extinction Event

The K-T (cretaceous-tertiary) extinction event was responsible for the extinction of nearly 80% of all species on Earth. Scientists speculate that this extinction was caused by a massive meteor that struck the planet 66 million years ago. This event is responsible for the death of all remaining species of dinosaurs.

Troodontids thrived and diversified throughout the Cretaceous period in what is now North America. The true scope of their specialization is unknown, and could potentially have been as broad as Darwin's finches today. Standard Troodontids had large eyes that hint at a nocturnal lifestyle. They would scour the underbrush for the small shrew-like ancestors of all mammals.

Had the Cretaceous never ended, and Troodontids been left to evolve unchecked, we might have ended up with something similar to what Russel described. Mammals would probably not have evolved as much as they did, due to early populations being kept in check by predators like Troodontids. The various evolutionary niches that mammals evolved to exploit would have already been filled by some saurian.

Many have speculated that in an alternate reality there exists a dinosauroid version of you, reading this very article (this blog is somehow a universal constant).

Modern Lizardman Sightings

Coincidentally, Russel's dinosauroid bears a striking resemblance to a modern cryptid. The Lizard Man of Scape Ore Swamp made its first appearance in Lee County, South Carolina in 1988. The Lee County sheriff's office investigated a car that was damaged on the night of July 14. Tooth marks and scratches had allegedly been left on the car, along with muddy footprints and some hair.

Sheriff Liston Truesdale stated that this was the first report in what would quickly become the legend of the Lizard Man. Spurred on by the media coverage of the damaged car, a local teenager came forward with what would become the seminal report. 17-year-old Christopher Davis reported that his car had also been damaged in an encounter with an unknown beast.

Davis described the creature as: "green, wetlike, about 7 feet tall and had three fingers, red eyes, skin like a lizard, snakelike scales". Does that sound familiar to you? Aside from the creature's massive size, it sounds like a spot-on description of Russel's dinosauroid. The size discrepancy can easily be explained away by fear-based overestimation. Recent studies have shown that humans that are afraid of something that they are seeing, will overestimate the size of the object. This effect is common in individuals with a fear of spiders or anyone encountering a bear in the woods.

Christopher Davis was driving home following his night shift at a local fast-food restaurant. His car got a flat tire while he was driving past Scape Ore Swamp. The teenager got out to repair his damaged vehicle. After Davis finished his repairs, he noticed a figure approaching him from the night. Davis made it back into the car just in time as the creature leaped atop it. This is about the time that the teen sped off, but the creature's hold on the car was relentless. He slammed on the brakes, sending his assailant flying into the darkness. The teenager used this opportunity to make his escape.

Several other reports would pop up to substantiate Davis' claims. The legend of the Lizard Man of Scape Ore Swamp grew to become a local sensation. There is even a festival dedicated to the cryptid.

Could it be that some Troodontids survived the K-T extinction event? Are there dinosauroids stalking us in the night?

David Icke's Lizard People

David Icke is a notorious conspiracy theorist and madman that has propagated the belief in shape-shifting reptilian aliens. His beliefs are hopelessly complex, but the basic idea is that there are reptilian aliens from the constellation Alpha Draconis that have taken over the leadership of the human race. This was allegedly achieved through the power of shape-shifting. Everyone from Michelle Obama, Hillary Clinton, Queen Elizabeth to the entire Rothschild family.

While I do not doubt that these people run our world, I do doubt that they are inhuman monsters. Human monsters are scary enough for me. The main issue with Icke's beliefs is the strange way that discussions about the reptilians always ends up devolving into pure anti-Semitism. Here's an article by Vox all about the anti-Semitic connection to belief in lizard people.


While speculating on the potential existence of a dino-human is fun, it seems unlikely that Troodontids survived the K-T extinction. There simply are no fossils to substantiate the existence of a modern dinosaur, let alone a dinosauroid. Bones don't last very long in swamps, though, so who knows how many species existed without leaving any evidence of their time on Earth.

Could there be a subterranean civilization of dinosauroids living beneath the United States to this day? Who knows?