In the popular imagination, dinosaurs are extraordinary reptiles that ruled the world for over 160 million years. But Steve Brusatte, a doctoral student at Columbia University who is an affiliate of the American Museum of Natural History, and colleagues are challenging this idea with new fossil data and math.
By comparing early dinosaurs to their competitors, the crurotarsan ancestors to crocodiles, they have found that dinosaurs were not “superior,” as has long been thought. Rather, crurotarsans were the more successful group during the 30 million years they overlapped until the devastating mass extinction 200 million years ago, an event that dinosaurs weathered successfully.
Reuters reported yesterday on new scientific research that indicates how dinosaurs beat out another early reptilian species for domination of the earth. Roughly 200 million years ago, dinosaurs battled with another dinosaur-like animal, the crurotarsan, which is related to the crocodile. Some species grew to 39 feet long, according to the article, at an epoch when few dinosaurs exceeded 10 feet in length.
Scientists used to believe that dinosaurs beat out the crurotarsans because the dinosaurs were physiologically superior. But new research indicates that dinosaurs might have won out due to a large stroke of cosmic luck, the nature of which is speculative.