Diverging Dinosaurs Just before the start of this Cretaceous

Study Shows Dinosaurs Diverged Long Ahead of the End of the Cretaceous

There’s a popularist view that the dinosaurs were at their most diverse and at the peak of their evolution with regards to the amount of new species evolving; at the very end of the Cretaceous. The Chicxulub impact then wiped out the fantastic dinosaur dynasty leaving the entire world for the mammals to exploit. The Chicxulub impact identifies the asteroid impact event that generated the demise of the dinosaurs sixty-five million years ago. Fossil evidence does not support this idea, studies in the Hell Creek Formation (Maastrichtian faunal stage), of the western United States indicate that the amount of species of dinosaur was declining in this part of the world towards the end of the Cretaceous. Approximately ten different genera are known from the youngest Cretaceous sediments, whilst older strata using this area show evidence of additional different dinosaur types.

Hell Creek Formation Data

Certainly some of the greatest known dinosaurs date from the very end of the Mesozoic. Animals wandering the Hell Creek area at the conclusion of the Cretaceous include Triceratops, what dinosaur has 500 teeth  Ankylosaurus and needless to say Tyrannosaurus rex. Previously, these gigantic representatives of their dinosaur families, (Triceratops, Ankylosaurus and T. rex are simply about the largest form of dinosaur from these three families), were considered to indicate that dinosaurs just got too big and lumbering to survive and this is the reason they went extinct. Scientists now realize that the reason why for the end Cretaceous mass extinction event, the extinction not merely of the dinosaurs but additionally the Ammonites, Plesiosaurs, Mosasaurs, Pterosaurs and a whole host of other plants and animals, were complex and probably involved a number of factors.

A Family Tree for the Dinosauria

Given the limitations of the prevailing dinosaur fossil record it is difficult to piece together a “dinosaur family tree” but a project to map dinosaur evolution and to highlight the key evolutionary shifts in Dinosauria has just been completed. The results of this study, led by a team of researchers from the University of Bristol has just been published in the British Journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B.

This study suggests that the dinosaurs as an organization diversified rapidly in the Late Triassic (225 – 200 million years ago) and then underwent another evolutionary surge in the Mid Jurassic (170 -160 million years ago). The scientists studied a big percentage of the described dinosaur species and pieced together an evolutionary “family tree of dinosaurs” ;.The team estimate that their study covered something similar to 70 percent of all of the known and described dinosaur species.

Bursts of Evolution

This new study contradicts earlier research that shows the dinosaurs diversifying during the Cretaceous. The established view is that although dinosaurs as an organization diversified in their entire existence, in certain periods, the evolution of new forms was speeded up. One particular period was the first to mid Cretaceous which saw the emergence of a better variety of Ornithischian dinosaurs – the rise of the Hadrosaurs, Ceratopsians and the Pachycephalosaurs, for example. These kind of new dinosaur were evolving during a time when many life forms on Earth were diversifying. Dating from about 125 to 80 million years back, there seemingly have been an enormous surge of increased terrestrial biodiversity. This time around period is referred to as the Cretaceous Terrestrial Revolution, life on Earth over this period changed dramatically. The Angiosperms (flowering plants), social insects, modern lizards, Mosasaurs and many types of mammals all evolved. It have been thought that the rapidly diversifying dinosaurs were part of this move towards greater biodiversity, the paper published by the Bristol team demotes dinosaur evolution during this period to a more peripheral role. This new study suggests that by the full time of the Cretaceous Terrestrial Revolution, all the key dinosaur types which were to survive before end of the Cretaceous were already established.

New Research Challenges Earlier Theories

This new work certainly contrasts with much of the accepted thinking regarding dinosaur diversity. Most palaeontologists genuinely believe that during the first to middle Jurassic there were only four main sets of dinosaurs, whilst during the Cretaceous this expanded to nine, namely:

Megalosaurs/Allosaurs, Tyrannosaurs, Sauropods, Hysilophodontids, Hadrosaurs, Pachycephalosaurs, Ceratopsians, Ankylosaurs and Stegosaurs.

The fossil record for all your terrestrial vertebrate life of the Mesozoic is extremely incomplete so it is difficult to trace evolutionary links between several types of animals. The task of the Bristol University team is certainly assisting to open up the debate, but devoid of reviewed the actual paper we cannot really comment any further. It could be interesting to learn how the evolution of non-avian dinosaurs, the birds has been assessed in this study. Very little is known about the evolution of birds, however they do seem to possess diversified and developed new species quickly during the mid to late Cretaceous, a growth in speciation that was largely unchecked by the Cretaceous mass extinction event.

Late Triassic Diversification

Certainly, it is not surprising that the dinosaurs diversified during the Late Triassic, the entire world was just dealing with the Permian mass extinction (an event that saw an estimated 57% of all marine families and 70% of all terrestrial vertebrate genera becoming extinct). Life on Earth slowly began to recoup and those kinds of organisms left begun to diversify to fill those environmental niches which were empty and those soon to be left empty by the “dead clades walking” such as the last of the Lystrosaurs. It absolutely was after the Permian mass extinction event that a number of sets of vertebrates got a chance to diversify, including our personal mammalian ancestors.

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