Were dinosaurs edible?

22 October 2019

DINOSAUR-SKELETON

A shot of a meat-eating dinosaur skull

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Question

I saw a survival show where the host caught a skunk, cooked it, and ate it, but said it was awful. I got me wondering, are most animals edible? And taking that to an extreme, what are the odds that dinosaurs were actually edible?

Answer

Mariana Marasiou reached out to Steve Brusatte at the University of Edinburgh, to find out...

Dan - I watched a survival show where the host cooked a skunk, cooked it and ate it but said it was awful. It got me wondering, are most animals edible? And taking that to an extreme, what are the odds that dinosaurs were actually edible?

Mariana - Dan is definitely on to something. Most animals are indeed edible but a edability is not the same as being nutritious tasty or culturally accepted. But how about eating dinosaurs? Now that I was very curious to find out and so I reached out to Steve Brusatte a palaeontologist at the University of Edinburgh.

Steve - Dinosaurs definitely were edible, at least to other dinosaurs. Some of the most iconic dinosaurs of all, things like T-Rex and velociraptor, made their living as predators, eating other dinosaurs like the horned dinosaurs Triceratops for instance or long neck dinosaurs like brontosaurus.

And so those prey dinosaurs must have been pretty tasty to the meat eaters.

Mariana - But would they have been tasty to us?

Steve -  I would imagine, yeah! Actually they probably would be! In fact they probably would have tasted like chicken. I guess everybody always says that everything tastes like chicken. And I'm being a little bit funny but I'm not really being that facetious here because birds evolved from dinosaurs, which means they are dinosaurs. So a chicken is as much of a dinosaur as Triceratops or Brontosaurus.

Mariana - Wow. But not all birds taste like chicken though.

Steve - Maybe some Mesozoic age dinosaurs may have tasted like duck or Turkey or game birds. Who knows? And as with birds and mammals today, it was probably the plant eating dinosaurs that would have tasted best, they would have been the tastiest, the meat eaters not so much. This is why we eat cows and sheep but we don't eat wolves and bears so much.

Mariana - That may also have something to do with how difficult they are to catch! On the forum Chiral SPO also pointed out that cooking can turn many inedible things into at least somewhat edible foods. And besides that, let's not forget that cooking gets rid of lots of bacteria that might make food unsafe to eat.

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