OCT 18, 2021 10:00 AM PDT

New Climatic Data from China Sheds Light on the Emergence of the Dinosaurs

WRITTEN BY: Timothy James

Its 232 million Years before present. The Permian Triassic mass extinction has come and gone, wiping out over 90% of all life on the planet. The dust of a great catastrophe has cleared, leading the way into one of earth’s most magnificent eras; the Mesozoic era, otherwise known as the age of Dinosaurs.

The climate is hot and muggy with the world’s oceans as hot as a sauna. Large predatory reptiles resembling huge crocodiles hunt our early ancestors, the lumbering mammal-like reptile dicynodonts. Also, it just started raining and it will not stop for two million years. Miami weather has nothing on the Carnian Pluvial Episode (CPE). Enjoy your stay in the early Triassic period.

New research from China is illuminating the ecological event that allowed those first small pioneering dinosaurs to seize those initial vital environmental niches. This research is focused on studying prehistoric lake cores from the Jiyuan Basin where ash and evidence of multiple volcanic episodes were discovered in the sediment exposed from the lake.  

Each volcano has its own chemical signature like a fingerprint, thus allowing scientists to get accurate dates and locations using volcanic material. When these methods were applied to the lake cores, the research team discovered that volcanic activity in the area coincided with the two-million-year rainy spell. These data, combined with previous papers documenting a notable rise in earth’s temperature at this time, all help to paint a clear picture of a biome ripe for the adaptive radiation of the dinosaurs.

While many species became successful at this time, others were unable to adapt. The CPE killed off large amounts of the larger dominant reptiles like Phytosaurs. Phytosaurs were massive crocodile-like predators with incredibly long and intimidating snouts, found commonly in what is today the American southwest and the Karoo Basin in South Africa.

Eleven million years may sound like an eternity to you and me, but geologically speaking, it’s not that much time at all. Eleven million years after the Carnian Pluvial Episode one of the first famous Dinosaurs evolved. The New Mexico State Fossil and this writer’s favorite dinosaur, Coelophysis. Coelophysis, meaning “Hollow Form,” was named for its hollow bones similar to those of birds. A prelude to what was yet to come. Who knows what life on Earth would look like if the CPE had not occurred?



Sources: Science Daily, Science NewsProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences

About the Author
Associate's (AA/AS/Other)
Hi Everyone! I am a paleontologist/archaeologist based in Los Angeles, California! I am passionate about conservation, sustainability, historic preservation, nature, archaeology, and natural history.
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