When you think of the dinosaurs, you think of a time long ago when large creatures walked the Earth before humans did. But as we learn more about them, we keep finding that they were more and more bird-like.
As this reality becomes clearer, scientists want to know more about when the transition from dinosaur to modern bird occurred.
Published in Biology Letters, researchers from the Macquarie University, led by Graeme Lloyd, have created a new dinosaur tree encompassing almost 1,000 individual species, making it the largest one to date.
In what was originally a study to try and find out when the split happened between dinosaurs and birds in early Earth, researchers were surprised to see that the creatures were probably walking the Earth a lot earlier than originally thought.
Most scientists agree that dinosaurs first started walking the planet about 230 million years ago, but the new research has revealed how the figure more realistically might be pushed as far out as about 250 million years ago.
This is a pretty bold finding, since the oldest-known fossil to date is of a Nyasasaurus, which was originally dated to be 240 million years old.
Using more than one type of dating process, the researchers came to these conclusions more than once. The fact that multiple dating processes agreed with one another meant the figures appeared valid.
Now this raises another question for scientists: at some point between the Permian and Triassic periods, a major extinction event happened, and these new figures seem to suggest that the creatures were able to survive that event, so how could this be?
More research is required to dig deeper into this mystery, but the answers should shed some light into various other questions as well, such as whether or not our dating process is as accurate as we think, as well as whether or not such an extinction level event actually happened when we thought it did.