A revealing new study on the origins of early dinosaurs has postulated that the ancient creatures could in fact have evolved much faster than previously known. The study employing radioactive isotope measurement of rock formations supporting the earliest fossils of dinosaur predecessors has unearthed striking observations. It demonstrates that dinosaur evolution could have lasted a few million years as opposed to the conventionally held palaeontological estimates of roughly 10 million years, virtually rendering all previous hypotheses inaccurate.
The study pushes for a radical departure from erstwhile scientific claims and brings to the fore incredibly prolific patterns of dinosaur evolution. It proposes that findings from the technique historically associated with the dating of early dinosaur fossils referred to as biostratigraphy are not as convincing as the new dating methods employed in the recent study. It reveals an astonisongly brief geological interlude between dinosaurs from the Triassic epoch and their predecessors, commonly referred to as dinosauromorphs.
The study places the rock formation between 234 million and 236 million years, stretching back from the present to the Late Triassic period, when dinosaurs were just beginning to surge to prominence as a dominant reptilian species. The findings confirm that dinosauromorph fossils were roughly of the same age. The analysis brings to light a staggering conclusion. The dinosaurs underwent an express evolution which may have lasted less than five million years, possibly owing to a rapidly advancing ecosystem that facilitated evolutionary progress.
According to Rowan University expert Kenneth Lacovare, “The story is that there was a very rapid evolution and a very rapid achievement of dominance in the fauna as they go from [early] dinosauromorphs to dinosaurs.”
The term dinosauromorph includes the smaller, more lightly built predecessor of the larger and heavily built later-epoch dinosaurs but effectively encompasses all dinosaurs of the early to middle Triassic period. These creatures flourished roughly 245 to 228 million years ago and exhibited more of a primitive skeletal structure. For instance, their hipbone features were not as distinctive as the wandering giants of the later period. Participating University of Utah researcher Randal Irmis describes the intricate anatomical parallels between later dinosaurs and their erstwhile predecessors.
“The dinosaurs themselves have a hole in their hip-sockets, so where the leg-bone fits into the hip, there’s a complete hole through the bone, whereas in the dinosaur precursors and the other reptiles, there’s just a shallow depression as opposed to a hole,”
The Triassic Period was the foremost period of the Mesozoic Era and occurred between 251 million and 199 million years ago. It followed the largest mass extinction in the history of the planet when 85 to 95 percent of marine invertebrate species and 70 percent of terrestrial vertebrates were obliterated. At the beginning of the Triassic, there was a solitary super-continent known as Pangaea with a climate generally very dry, exhibiting extremely hot summers and cold winters in the continental interior. During restoration of life in the Triassic Period, the relative significance of terrestrial animals grew, leading to the emergence of early dinosaurs that subsequently evolved into the most massive, fearsome, intimidating, and ominous dinosaurs to have ever roamed the planet.
The findings have provided compelling evidence that the early dinosauromorphs existed between five to 10 million years earlier than originally reckoned, challenging the long-standing scientific stance on the origins of early dinosauromorphs and their subsequent evolution into later epoch dinosaurs, such as the magnificent creatures that flourished during the Jurassic and the Cretaceous periods of the Mesozoic Epoch. The study offers exhilarating insights into the extraordinary and rapid evolution of one of the planet’s most awe-inspiring and formidable creatures.
[Image via Shutterstock.]