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“These formations were thought to preserve ecosystems that were recovering from this mass extinction event,” Irmis said.

That would suggest that dinosaurs evolved much quicker than earlier thought and that their emergence didn’t change ecosystems as much as once believed.“What was unexpected was that these earliest dinosauromorphs were so late in time.Related: Pig-snouted turtle from dinosaur era discovered in Utah This 212 million-year-old leg bone of an early carnivorous dinosaur is encased in rock prior to excavation at the Hayden Quarry, Ghost Ranch, New Mexico.Dinosaurs such as these were still small and uncommon components of their ecosystems in the low latitudes during the Late Triassic Period.“This shows that dinosaurs were just a part of a bigger radiation of dinosauromorphs and we should be really asking the question why dinosaurmorphs became so successful.” The international team, which also included researchers from Brazil, Argentina and California, employed radioactive isotope measurements to date zircon crystals found in the sediments of the Chañares Formation in Argentina.

It is famous for its fossils of early dinosaur relatives and thus an ideal place to study the relationship between early dinosaurs and dinosaurs.By measuring radioactive isotopes in zircons crystals from the volcanic ash, scientists were able to determine the precise age of this fossil assemblage.(Victor Leshyk) Because of the checkered fossil record, the exact origin and rise of dinosaurs has long been shrouded in uncertainty.“Because of this, the margin of error is very narrow because you can see the complete history all in one basin.” Beyond the emergence of the dinosauromorphs, the findings also may call into question the timing of formations around the world that also have fossils of these dinosaur relatives from the Middle Triassic Period.Among them are the Santa Maria Formation in southern Brazil as well as the Karoo sequence in South Africa and the Omingonde Formation of Namibia.“For something that happens over the course of, say, 600 million years, an error of 3-4 million years is not statistically significant.