Climatic controls on the ecological ascendancy of dinosaurs

Farnsworth A, Benson RBJ, Godoy PL, Greene SE, Valdes PJ, Lunt DJ, Butler RJ, Dunne E (2023)

Publication Type: Journal article

Publication year: 2023


Book Volume: 33

Pages Range: 206-+

Journal Issue: 1

DOI: 10.1016/j.cub.2022.11.064


The ascendancy of dinosaurs to become dominant components of terrestrial ecosystems was a pivotal event in the history of life, yet the drivers of their early evolution and biodiversity are poorly understood.1-3 During their early diversification in the Late Triassic, dinosaurs were initially rare and geographically restricted, only attain-ing wider distributions and greater abundance following the end-Triassic mass extinction event.4-6 This pattern is consistent with an opportunistic expansion model, initiated by the extinction of co-occurring groups such as aetosaurs, rauisuchians, and therapsids.4,7,8 However, this pattern could instead be a response to changes in global climatic distributions through the Triassic to Jurassic transition, especially given the increasing evidence that climate played a key role in constraining Triassic dinosaur distributions.7,9-16 Here, we test this hypothesis and elucidate how climate influenced early dinosaur distribution by quantitatively examining changes in dino-saur and tetrapod "climatic niche space"across the Triassic-Jurassic boundary. Statistical analyses show that Late Triassic sauropodomorph dinosaurs occupied a more restricted climatic niche space than other tetrapods and dinosaurs, being excluded from the hottest, low-latitude climate zones. A subsequent, earliest Jurassic expansion of sauropodomorph geographic distribution is linked to the expansion of their preferred climatic conditions. Evolutionary model-fitting analyses provide evidence for an important evolutionary shift from cooler to warmer climatic niches during the origin of Sauropoda. These results are consistent with the hypoth-esis that global abundance of sauropodomorph dinosaurs was facilitated by climatic change and provide sup-port for the key role of climate in the ascendancy of dinosaurs.

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Farnsworth, A., Benson, R.B.J., Godoy, P.L., Greene, S.E., Valdes, P.J., Lunt, D.J.,... Dunne, E. (2023). Climatic controls on the ecological ascendancy of dinosaurs. Current Biology, 33(1), 206-+.


Farnsworth, Alexander, et al. "Climatic controls on the ecological ascendancy of dinosaurs." Current Biology 33.1 (2023): 206-+.

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