Until recently, most scientists believed that dinosaurs experience a rapid surge in evolution. However, recently discovered fossils paint a different picture. The findings suggest that dinosaurs and their precursors actually lived in the same era.
This picture of dinosaur evolution is reinforced by fossils found in Brazil. The discovery consists of two small dinosaurs and a lagerpetid in the same location. Considering that the latter fossil is a precursor of the dinosaurs we know and love, it means the scientists have to rewrite some of the history of dinosaurs.
The unique site in Brazil known as The Carnian Santa Maria Formation, marks the first time where the lagerpetid fossil (Ixalerpeton) and Saurischian dinosaur (Buriolestes) were found together. The rock formation has an age of around 230 million years. Their discovery in the same rock means that there’s no other explanation other than they must have lived together during one of the earliest stages of dinosaur evolution.
The discovery was extensively analyzed through a study which was published on November 10 in the journal Current Biology. Researchers concluded that the cohabitation of dinosaurs and their precursors means that the process of evolution from one species to another must have been slower, more gradual than initially predicted.
The study vehemently analyzed the lagerpetid fossil in order to confirm it belongs to the specific animals. Researchers found that the fossil had all of its supporting features such as skull, vertebrae, and forelimb elements. They also found evidence that the early dinosaurs ate various types of small animals, and not plants. This conclusion was based on the markings on their teeth.
After the researchers confirmed the coexistence of the two types of animals which the fossils belonged to, they have begun work to recreate a more in-depth description of their anatomy using CT scans. They hope to obtain a more specific date of when they were alive using radio isotopic scans on the oldest rocks of the Santa Maria Formation. Additionally, they also hope to find more Triassic fossils in the same location.
Are you interested in dinosaurs? If so, What do you think about this discovery and its implications for the evolution of dinosaurs?
Image credit: Cabreira et al./Current Biology