Many dinosaurs appear throughout the story of Dragon Ball, but the most memorable one for most fans just might be the huge dinosaur Gohan encounters- and subsequently chows down on the tail of- during the Saiyan arc. After Piccolo leaves him stranded in the wastelands, Gohan quickly becomes stronger and is even able to easily evade a particularly aggressive dinosaur in the area. The young Saiyan is then depicted chopping off a hunk of that dinosaur's tail and cooking it on an open fire he started with his own Ki.
This part of the story really makes the reader feel that Gohan has become more independent, but it begs the question: Can you actually eat dinosaur meat? We brought in Assistant Professor Soki Hattori from Fukui Prefectural University's Paleontology Research Center to answer that question and tell us about the life and habits of dinosaurs.
Interviewee: Soki Hattori
Assistant Professor at Fukui Prefectural University's Paleontology Research Center.
After completing a PhD program at University of Tokyo’s School of Science, left to become curator for the Gifu Prefectural Museum and researcher at the Fukui Prefectural Dinosaur Museum. Holds a Doctor of Science degree. Specializes in comparative anatomy research pertaining to Archosauria, particularly dinosaurs.
Entertainment analyst. Author of many articles based on serious research (including data analysis and interviews) into non-serious subjects. Articles often featured on Yahoo's freelance page and the Daily Portal Z website. Has a particular fondness for music, films, and manga!
・Gohan's Saurian Foe Resembles a T-Rex, So It's Probably a Theropod
・Dinosaur Meat Would Be Juicy, But Remember to Cook It Properly
・We Might Discover a Similar Dinosaur One Day
— Mr. Hattori, what do you normally do at your job?
Hattori: I work as a paleontologist, serving as both an assistant professor at Fukui Prefectural University as well as a researcher at the Fukui Prefectural Dinosaur Museum. I usually prepare lectures and exhibits for the museum, plus I also carry out fossil excavations within Fukui-prefecture in the summer.
— Wow, you excavate fossils?! How many do you usually discover?
Hattori: Quite a few, actually! If you include non-dinosaur fossils such as turtles, we find over 2000 in a single summer. It's hard work to do in the summer heat, but it's very rewarding.
— That sounds like a lot of fun! So now I'd like to ask you about the dinosaurs that appear in Dragon Ball. For starters, how would you classify the dinosaur that Gohan fought during his training in the wastelands?
Hattori: If we're talking about dinosaurs in the real world, I'd classify this one as a theropod. It's a group of carnivorous dinosaurs that includes illustrious members such as the tyrannosaurus rex, plus they are the ancestors of current day birds.
A dinosaur classification chart. The dinosaur that attacked Gohan appears to be a member of the "theropoda" branch, which falls into the Saurischia division of dinosaurs.
— Wow, so the descendants of these dinosaurs still exist to this day!
Hattori: This particular theropod has small front legs, so it would have been one of the first theropods to evolve. We know that this type of theropod existed in various periods, but the dinosaur that Gohan encounters has small front legs in proportion to its body, so it must be a distant relative to aves (birds).
— Wow, so you can tell how evolved it is just from its physiology. By the way, is there a reason that this dinosaur's hands would be so small?
Hattori: Us humans use our hands when we eat which affects our perception so that we end up thinking that having long arms and big hands is something to be desired. However, most animals move their heads close to whatever they are trying to eat. Because of this, hands become less important, and actually having smaller ones that require fewer calories can boost efficiency.
— I see! Next, I'd like to ask you about the large crest on this dinosaur's head. What could the purpose of this protrusion be?
Hattori: I'm fairly certain that it is used for attracting mates or intimidation. Some herbivorous dinosaurs had a hollow cavity inside their crests that they could use to produce sounds, kind of like a brass instrument.
On the other hand, those kinds of crests are rare in carnivorous dinosaurs. That's why I think that instead of having some actual function it must be used for courtship, basically to make this dinosaur look more appealing.
— This dinosaur makes lots of noises from growls like “Grr” to a loud “RAAR”. Did actual dinosaurs make similar noises?
Hattori: The vocal cords possessed by dinosaurs were similar to those seen in current day alligators and birds, so the basic idea is that dinosaurs would have made sounds similar to these animals. There are existing animals like herons that also make a "Raar"-type sound, so theoretically it wouldn't be odd for this dinosaur to make the sounds it does.
— I see! It's impressive that you were able to infer so much from just these two panels!
— Gohan wastes no time in chowing down on some dinosaur meat. He is shown cooking it on an open fire as well, but this begs the question: Could you actually eat dinosaur meat?
Hattori: Dinosaur meat would not only be edible, I'd go so far as to bet it would taste great, too. I suspect that it would be slightly oily and juicy, making it similar to the kind of chicken or alligator meat that humans consume today.
That being said, eating raw meat from wild animals is a bit dangerous. The fact that Gohan thought to cook it first really shows that he is intelligent for his young age. As for me personally, I like something with a bit of a salty taste, so I'd like to try dinosaur meat that’s been seasoned with salt and pepper...
— Gohan was busy with his training, so there were no seasonings to be had. The young half-Saiyan is shown eating the tail of his would-be attacker, but if you had the choice, what cut of dinosaur meat do you think would taste the best?
Hattori: If we're talking about the dinosaur that Gohan encounters, I'd say the hind legs would be best. Its legs are much thicker than your average dinosaur, so I'd imagine they would contain the yummiest meat.
— Mr. Hattori, is there a cut of dinosaur meat that you'd like to taste test?
Hattori: Oh, that's a tricky one... The gizzard might be a good choice. We sometimes refer to it using the technical term "ventriculus". It's the organ that grinds up pieces of indigestible matter found in gravel and the like that might get consumed.
We know that dinosaurs also possessed gizzards, and I think they must have been very tough, but I'd still like to give it a try if I had the chance.
— As far as dinosaur dining goes, would you say that the dinosaur Gohan ate would be on the delectable side?
Hattori: Hmmm. I'd say that a herbivore would probably be more inviting to the palate as opposed to this dinosaur, which appears to be a carnivore. The taste of the meat changes depending on what the animal eats, so I'd say there were probably more delicious varieties of dinosaurs to choose from.
— Understood. My eyes are being opened to the joys of fine dinosaur cuisine!
— We’ve talked a bit about dinosaur meat, so next I would like to ask you about this dinosaur's biology. Gohan is shown to be able to escape from the dinosaur by running away, but would this be possible for normal humans? Or, is Gohan just really that amazing?
Hattori: Escaping from a dinosaur on foot would be quite difficult for a human to pull off. For example, a Tyrannosaurus could run at speeds between 18km to 40km per hour, making it about as fast as a moped.
A dinosaur this big wouldn't be particularly nimble, but its strides would be very broad. Because of this, while it might not seem to be moving very quickly, it would have no trouble catching up with a human if it sped up even slightly.
In that case, it seems like a non-Saiyan would be quickly devoured if they ran into this dinosaur.
Hattori: That's actually not the case. A tiny human wouldn't make much of a meal for a large carnivorous dinosaur like this one, plus small prey tends to be more nimble, which would require energy to catch it.
Due to this, carnivorous dinosaurs normally sought out large herbivores for food. The fact that Gohan was targeted in the first place is rather unusual.
— What's more, this would-be dino bully even seemed to take its time in chasing after Gohan, going out of its way to move in and intimidate the tot first.
Hattori: Carnivores like this one would usually try to attack their prey without being noticed, so this behavior suggests that the dinosaur was viewing Gohan as an enemy rather than a potential meal. It would make more sense in this case to assume that it was trying to remove a rival from its territory.
Of course, if the dinosaur was exceptionally hungry because it had not been able to find prey for an extended period, it might still go after a small target like our half-Saiyan friend here.
— Later on, Gohan manages to cut off a large chunk of the dinosaur's tail with his sword.
Hattori: I think it's clear that Gohan started out with abilities that far surpass that of a normal human, but regardless of that, a tail that could be chopped off so easily with a sword must have been rather soft to begin with. For comparison, marine animals such as whales have soft portions on their bodies despite being very large. On the other hand, most land animals tend to have very thick, dry hides in order to reduce moisture loss.
That makes this dinosaur's tail a real enigma. It has remarkably few bones in it, and no blood seems to come out from the area that was cut by Gohan's sword.
— Now that you mention it, there is a distinct lack of blood. Also, the only bone seems to be the one in the center of the tail.
Hattori: This is just speculation, but it might be possible that this dinosaur lost its tail in the past and re-grew it. Animals like lizards have an ability known as "self-amputation" that allows them to shed their tails, and when they do this the muscles around the affected area contract to stop bleeding. It might just be the case that this dinosaur here also possesses that ability.
In addition, when lizards regrow their tails it is common for the original bone structure to be replaced with a simple cartilage tube. That makes me think that this dinosaur might have regrown its tail in a similar fashion before it was again cut off by Gohan.
— Incredible! Did actual dinosaurs on our planet also have the ability to regrow their tails?
Hattori: We aren't certain at the moment, but we are still discovering new types of dinosaurs at around the rate of 1 type per week. For theropods like the dinosaur we have been discussing today, about 1 new type is discovered somewhere on Earth each month.
Since we still don't know all the types of dinosaurs that existed, it is possible that we might discover one that resembles the dinosaur that appears in Dragon Ball.
— Thank you so much for your time today! This was an absolutely fascinating interview!
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