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Have you ever wondered what dinosaur meat might have tasted like? Chances are you've eaten dinosaur more recently than you might expect.

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Hosted by: Michael Aranda
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Michael: You know how sometimes you’re just sitting around wondering what dinosaur meat might have tasted like? Well chances are you might have eaten dinosaur meat recently. Technically, birds are dinosaurs. If you look at bird skeletons, they look remarkably similar to dinos. And over the centuries, paleontologists have found lots of fossils – from Archaeopteryx to Ornithomimus – that suggest modern birds are direct descendants of dinosaurs.

Because biologists classify things based on relatedness, that makes pigeons, falcons, and every other modern bird a living dinosaur. So that chicken pot pie you had last night, or those game day buffalo wings – that’s all delectable dino.

In fact, you could say that dinosaur is actually the most popular meat in America. Of course, when most people think of dinosaurs, they mean the extinct, non-avian kind. So would those dinosaurs have tasted like chicken?

Well, even among birds today, there’s quite a range of flavors: chicken is different from turkey; turkey is different from duck... There’s even emu. A lot of different factors could have affected the flavor of dino meat. Meat, after all, is muscle, and muscle fiber comes in two varieties.

Slow-twitch fibers are what we know as red or dark meat. They’re used for lower-intensity, longer-duration activities like walking around. The dark color comes from a protein called myoglobin, which binds iron and supplies oxygen to these constantly hungry muscles.

Fast-twitch fibers, on the other hand, make up white meat, and are used for occasional bursts of intense activity – like a chicken using its breast muscles to flap its wings. Because these fibers really only need energy every now and then, they rely on glycogen, a stored form of sugar, and don’t have as much myoglobin, so they look white. Fast-twitch muscle isn’t worked out as much, so it’s more tender, but it has less flavor.

Dinosaurs would have different amounts of white and dark meat depending on their lifestyles. An herbivore like Brachiosaurus that was constantly on the move in search of food might be heavy on the dark meat, while a predator that specialized in sudden bursts of movement like a velociraptor would have more white meat.

What an animal eats also has a big effect on how it tastes – think of the difference between a burger made from grass-fed cows and one made from cows raised on grain. There were a few grain-eating dinosaurs, and lots of others dined on plants, so you would have had your pick.

Back in the Mesozoic, dinosaurs were usually the ones chomping down on mammals, but you would have a least one fellow dino-diner. In 2005, researchers discovered a fossil of an opossum-sized mammal that had the remains of a baby dinosaur in its gut. So, even if we can’t pinpoint the exact flavor profile of dinosaur meat now, rest easy knowing that your ancestors had a pretty good idea.

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