How Old Is This Dinosaur ?

For a long time many scientists thought dinosaurs were polyphyletic with multiple groups of unrelated "dinosaurs" evolving due to similar pressures,but dinosaurs are now known to have formed a single group.

Dinosaurs diverged from their archosaur ancestors approximately 230 million years ago during the Middle to Late Triassic period, roughly 20 million years after the Permian-Triassic extinction event wiped out an estimated 95% of all life on Earth. Radiometric dating of the rock formation that contained fossils from the early dinosaur genus Eoraptor establishes its presence in the fossil record at this time. Paleontologists believe Eoraptor resembles the common ancestor of all dinosaurs; if this is true, its traits suggest that the first dinosaurs were small, bipedal predators.The discovery of primitive, dinosaur-like ornithodirans such as Marasuchus and Lagerpeton in Argentinian Middle Triassic strata supports this view; analysis of recovered fossils suggests that these animals were indeed small, bipedal predators.

When dinosaurs appeared, terrestrial habitats were occupied by various types of basal archosaurs and therapsids, such as aetosaurs, cynodonts, dicynodonts, ornithosuchids, rauisuchias, and rhynchosaurs. Most of these other animals became extinct in the Triassic, in one of two events. First, at about the boundary between the Carnian and Norian faunal stages (about 215 million years ago), dicynodonts and a variety of basal archosauromorphs, including the prolacertiforms and rhynchosaurs, became extinct. This was followed by the Triassic-Jurassic extinction event (about 200 million years ago), that saw the end of most of the other groups of early archosaurs, like aetosaurs, ornithosuchids, phytosaurs, and rauisuchians. These losses left behind a land fauna of crocodylomorphs, dinosaurs, mammals, pterosaurians, and turtles.

The first few lines of primitive dinosaurs diversified through the Carnian and Norian stages of the Triassic, most likely by occupying the niches of groups that became extinct. Traditionally, dinosaurs were thought to have replaced the variety of other Triassic land animals by proving superior through a long period of competition. This now appears unlikely, for several reasons. Dinosaurs do not show a pattern of steadily increasing in diversity and numbers, as would be predicted if they were competitively replacing other groups; instead, they were very rare through the Carnian, making up only 1-2% of individuals present in faunas. In the Norian, however, after the extinction of several other groups, they became significant components of faunas, representing 50-90% of individuals. Also, what had been viewed as a key adaptation of dinosaurs, their erect stance, is now known to have been present in several contemporaneous groups that were not as successful (aetosaurs, ornithosuchids, rauisuchians, and some groups of crocodylomorphs). Finally, the Late Triassic itself was a time of great upheaval in life, with shifts in plant life, marine life, and climate. Crurotarsans, today represented only by crocodilians but in the Late Triassic also encompassing such now-extinct groups as aetosaurs, phytosaurs, ornithosuchians, and rauisuchians, were actually more diverse in the Late Triassic than dinosaurs, indicating that the survival of dinosaurs had more to do with luck than superiority.


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