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 Three-year-old ultra-Orthodox Jewish children told 'the non-Jews' are 'evil' in worksheet produced by London school
- 2 Moscow voted the world's unfriendliest city
- 3 The excuses your boss is most likely to believe when you call in sick
- 4 I'm pansexual – here are the five biggest misconceptions about my sexuality
- 5 More than 11,000 Icelanders offer to house Syrian refugees to help European crisis
The excuses your boss is most likely to believe when you call in sick
Bono's group has made more money from Facebook investment than from all his music
Three-year-old ultra-Orthodox Jewish children told 'the non-Jews' are 'evil' in worksheet produced by London school
Wikipedia rocked by 'rogue editors' blackmail scam targeting small businesses and celebrities
More than 11,000 Icelanders offer to house Syrian refugees to help European crisis
Climate change: 2015 will be the hottest year on record 'by a mile', experts say
Senior British politicians tell David Cameron: When dead children are being washed up on beaches, it's time to act
Jeremy Corbyn calls Osama bin Laden's killing a 'tragedy' - but was it taken out of context?
If these extraordinarily powerful images of a dead Syrian child washed up on a beach don’t change Europe’s attitude to refugees, what will?
If you're not already angry about the refugee crisis, here's a history lesson to remind you why you really should be
Theresa May says migrants should be banned from entering the UK unless they have jobs lined up
£40000 - £42000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...
£35000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This IT support company has a n...
Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A works engineer is required in a progressive ...
£21000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Our client is seeking someone w...