Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Retracing the tracks of dinosaurs reveals ecosystem the size of a continent

Date:
April 22, 2010
Source:
McGill University
Summary:
Researchers have uncovered the first evidence that a warm and moderate climate allowed dinosaurs to expand into one massive homogenous community across North America.

Researchers have uncovered the first evidence that a warm and moderate climate allowed dinosaurs to expand into one massive homogenous community across North America.
Credit: iStockphoto/Linda Bucklin

Researchers at McGill University are unlocking the mysteries of the little-known habits of dinosaurs in discovering that the entire western interior of North America was likely once populated by a single community of dinosaurs. According to a statistical analysis of the fossil record, dinosaurs were adept at coping with all sorts of environments, and not as restricted in their geographic ranges as previously thought.

The discovery was made by McGill Professor Hans Larsson and Matthew Vavrek, a PhD student at the University. Using data from the Paleobiology Database (http://www.paleodb.org/), they found that the difference in species between regions over North America was relatively low -- low enough to consider it a single homogeneous fauna. The finding is significant as it confirms that dinosaur ecosystems may have been as large as continents. The paper is published in the April 19 issue of the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

The McGill team zeroed in on alpha diversity, the number of species in an immediate area, versus beta diversity, which are the differences in species between two different areas. Their research shows low beta biodiversity among these dinosaurs with values comparable to species living in homogeneous climates today, but on smaller geographic scales.

"This is significant because we lack living analogues of a complete terrestrial megafauna living in those kinds of stable climates. The findings give us an insight into what kind of ranges these types of communities may have had," Larsson, a Canada Research Chair in Macroevolution, explained. "We also demonstrate that after more than a century of collecting dinosaurs in North America, we should expect to find about 16 types, on average, in any one region of western North America just before their mass extinction."

The long extinct dinosaurs are not just long dead fossils, but they offer a unique insight into a complex megafauna that responded to their environment. But even though they are extinct, they can tell us about the ecology of the animals we see today. "Despite their appearance, dinosaurs are ecologically very similar to mammals of today," Vavrek said. "They were able to colonize and dominate the landscape over very large distances, and were not nearly as constrained as we might have once thought."

By examining a single time slice, the Maastrichtian stage (71-65 million years ago) and all known specimens of dinosaurs from the Western Interior region of North America, the duo concluded that multiple dinosaur faunal regions did not exist.

"Our results show low beta diversity and support a single dinosaur community within the entire Western Interior region. This widespread ecosystem was likely due to the homogenous climate present in this region at the time." said Larsson. "What is exciting about this result is that now we can begin to ask many more questions about how such a large homogeneous community of dinosaurs lived. Did they migrate, or have adequate amounts of gene flow between regional populations, or a mixture of both? How did this widespread dinosaur megafaunal community affect other animals and plants on the regional and continental scale? We're just beginning to scratch the surface of dinosaur ecology."


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by McGill University. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. M. J. Vavrek, H. C. E. Larsson. Low beta diversity of Maastrichtian dinosaurs of North America. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 2010; DOI: 10.1073/pnas.0913645107

Cite This Page:

McGill University. "Retracing the tracks of dinosaurs reveals ecosystem the size of a continent." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 22 April 2010. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/04/100421223712.htm>.
McGill University. (2010, April 22). Retracing the tracks of dinosaurs reveals ecosystem the size of a continent. ScienceDaily. Retrieved October 21, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/04/100421223712.htm
McGill University. "Retracing the tracks of dinosaurs reveals ecosystem the size of a continent." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/04/100421223712.htm (accessed October 21, 2014).

Share This



More Fossils & Ruins News

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Fish Fossil Shows First-Ever Sex Was Done Side By Side

Fish Fossil Shows First-Ever Sex Was Done Side By Side

Newsy (Oct. 19, 2014) A 380-million-year-old fish may be the first creature to have copulative sex - and it was side by side with arms linked, like square dancers. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
As Sweden Hunts For Sub, "Cold War" Comparisons Flourish

As Sweden Hunts For Sub, "Cold War" Comparisons Flourish

Newsy (Oct. 19, 2014) With Sweden on the look-out for a suspected Russian sub, a lot of people are talking about the Cold War, but is it an apt comparison? Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
So, Kangaroos Didn't Always Hop

So, Kangaroos Didn't Always Hop

Newsy (Oct. 16, 2014) Researchers believe an extinct kangaroo species weighed 500 pounds or more and couldn't hop. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
1000-Year-Old Viking Treasure Hoard Found in Scotland

1000-Year-Old Viking Treasure Hoard Found in Scotland

Reuters - Light News Video Online (Oct. 14, 2014) A hoard of Viking artifacts dating back over 1,000 years is discovered by a treasure hunter with a metal detector in Scotland. Elly Park reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Plants & Animals

Earth & Climate

Fossils & Ruins

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins