Dinosaurs moved in when everyone else moved out
Wednesday 06 October 2010
Even in the savage world of dinosaurs, the meek shall inherit the earth, a new discovery suggests.
A dwarf dinosaur that lived 190 million years ago challenges the view that the "terrible lizards" conquered the world by overpowering their rivals.
Instead it is more likely they simply stepped into the space left by departing competitors, say researchers.
Newly-discovered dinosaur Sarahsaurus was around 14 feet long and weighed about 250lb.
It may seem big by modern standards, but the four-footed plant-eater was a small ancestor of giant sauropods such as diplodocus - the largest land animals that ever lived.
Evidence from Sarahsaurus and two other similar "sauropodomorphs" indicates that each migrated north from their birthplace in what is now South America long after a major extinction event.
No such dinosaurs moved to North America before the disaster at the end of the Triassic Period, one of five great mass extinctions in the Earth's history.
Study leader Professor Tim Rowe, from the University of Texas at Austin, US, said: "We used to think of dinosaurs as fierce creatures that outcompeted everyone else. Now we're starting to see that's not really the case.
"They were humbler, more opportunistic creatures. They didn't invade the neighbourhood. They waited for the residents to leave and when no one was watching, they moved in."
The research is reported in the journal Proceedings Of The Royal Society B.
Sarahsaurus had physical traits usually associated with gigantic animals, including long, straight, pillar-like thigh bones.
Prof Rowe said he was also intrigued by its hands, which were small but powerful, with large claws.
"It's doing something with its hands that involved great strength and power, but we don't know what," he said.
Sarahsaurus is named after Sarah Butler, a philanthropist who raised money for an interactive children's exhibit at the Austin Nature and Science Centre called "Dino Pit".
- 1 Nigel Farage: Me vs Russell Brand on Question Time – he's got the chest hair but where are his ideas?
- 2 Harry Potter fans can apply to the Hogwarts-inspired College of Wizardry
- 3 Jessica Chambers: 19-year-old woman 'doused with lighter fluid and burned alive' in the US
- 4 Russell Brand calls Nigel Farage 'poundshop Enoch Powell' in BBC Question Time debate
- 5 Orange Wednesdays are no more
Weather bomb in pictures: Storms cuts power for tens of thousands – and snow is on the way
Jessica Chambers: 19-year-old woman 'doused with lighter fluid and burned alive' in the US
Russell Brand calls Nigel Farage 'poundshop Enoch Powell' in BBC Question Time debate
Russell Brand was rendered speechless on Question Time by this man
Fury at Airbus after it hints the super-jumbo may be mothballed
Disgruntled RBS worker writes hilarious open letter to Russell Brand after anti-capitalist publicity stunt leaves him hungry
Shock poll shows voters believe Ukip is to the left of the Tories
Nigel Farage's approval rating hits 'record low' as popularity suffers in wake of Ukip sex scandal
Nigel Farage defends Kerry Smith 'ch***y' comment: 'If you are going for a Chinese, what do you say you’re going for?'
Ukip candidate jokes about 'shooting peasants' in racist and homophobic rant
Pakistan school attack live: Taliban kill at least 132 children in 'horrifying' massacre
£65000 - £80000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Finance Director required to jo...
£15000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a unique opportunity fo...
£50000 per annum + 26 days holiday,pension: Ashdown Group: A highly successful...
£27000 per annum + pension + holidays: The Jenrick Group: A Quality Technician...