For much of the 20th century, paleontologists theorized that dinosaurs, like reptiles, were ectothermic, their body temperature regulated externally. These scientists, however, based their conclusions on faulty reasoning, claiming that scaly skin was common to all ectotherms (birds, which are ectothermic, do not have scaly skin) and that the dinosaur’s size could account for ectothermy (some adult dinosaurs weighed as little as ten pounds). Supplanting this theory is an entirely new line of thought: dinosaurs were actually mesothermic, neither warm- nor cold-blooded. By taking this middle ground, some paleontologists maintain that dinosaurs were faster than a similar-sized reptile yet did not require as much food as a similar-sized mammal. To substantiate this theory, paleontologists intend to study how birds, the dinosaur’s closest extant relative, might have at one time been mesothermic.
The two parts in parentheses serve to do which of the following?