Meet the earliest dinosaurs

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Dinosaurs ruled the Earth during the late Triassic through the late Cretaceous periods, a span of some 160 million years. Their evolutionary rise and their ultimate reign was made possible thanks to the largest mass extinction the planet had ever seen, which occurred at the boundary of the Permian and Triassic periods. Newly uncovered tracks in Poland have revealed what are now considered to be the earliest known evidence of dinosaurs in existence.

For the first 20 million or so years after the Permian-Triassic extinction, dinosaurs' direct relatives were small and quite rare; larger crocodile-like reptiles ruled the planet, and finding early dinosaur remains has been difficult. A new paper in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B discusses the identification of fossilized footprints found in the Holy Cross Mountains of central Poland.

The paper focuses on three sets of tracks all found within a 25 mile radius that were created between 250 and 246 million years ago. The oldest of the tracks, the Stryczowice trackway, contains evidence of the earliest predecessors to dinosaurs ever discovered—a full five to nine million years older than the earliest skeletal remains.

For more information related to dinosaur fossils, visit dinosaurs.


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