Study finds that dinosaurs may have evolved much faster than previously thought

To understand our world and its future, we often must look to the past. Clues about the evolution of the planet and its inhabitants are scattered in the ground, which helps unlock the mysteries about the past. Unfortunately, sometimes deciphering those clues can be difficult, and the smallest error in calculations can put the dates of events off by millions of years, as one group of researchers recently found.

Evolution is a process that can take millions of years. For instance, it's been suggested that dinosaurs took between 10 and 15 million years to evolve from their ancestors. That's been accepted as a reasonable time for the evolutionary process to take place. However, recent discoveries show that dinosaurs could have evolved in as little as 5 million years.

A group of researchers recently analyzed a set of fossils found in the ChaƱares Formation in Argentina, with the hopes of learning more about the origin of both dinosaurs and their closest relatives, the dinosauromorphs. The ChaƱares Formation is a unique area, because this is one of the only places in the world where fossils of both groups can be found together.

When the team produced radioisotopic ages for the fossils found here, they were surprised to find that the gap in time where only dinosauromorphs existed to where dinosaurs entered the picture was off significantly from previous estimations. Their conclusion was that dinosaurs rapidly evolved in a period of roughly 5 million years. It also showed that the initial appearance of dinosaurs was not associated with a fundamental shift in ecosystem composition, as classically stated.

Source: PNAS