Study shows extinction of pseudosuchians may have helped dinosaurs flourish

March 28, 2013 by Bob Yirka, report
Longosuchus meani, an aetosaur from the Late Triassic of North America. Credit: Nobu Tamura/Wikipedia

( —A pair of researchers from Germany's Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität have published a paper in the journal Biology Letters, suggesting that the mass extinction of pseudosuchians approximately 201 million years ago, helped dinosaurs thrive. Paleontologists Olja Toljagić and Richard Butler write that the one lone pseudosuchian line that survived the extinction event, likely also benefited by the demise of their cousins.

Pseudosuchians were large predators with thick and big strong tales. They resembled large crocodiles and armadillos, but were not dinosaurs. They flourished during the , but all of them save one line died out as the began. Scientists believe this was due to a geological event such as that are believed to have occurred as the Atlantic Ocean was forming—they would have spewed so much carbon dioxide into the air, that plant and animal life the world over was impacted. One of those impacts was the extinction of many animal species, including most pseudosuchians. What still puzzles researchers is why the dinosaurs flourished while so many others perished. One clue is being offered in this new research. The authors suggest that dinosaurs had better breathing biology and superior locomotive morphology, allowing them to move to where the food was. Subsequently, with fewer predators around, the dinosaurs became one of the dominate species on Earth, at least for a time.

The authors also suggest that after the die-off, the one line of Pseudosuchians that survived did very well for themselves too, radiating to many parts of the planet and eventually giving rise to all modern alligators and crocodiles. After studying many previously found specimens, the researchers have concluded that the lone survivors of the grew quite diverse in a short period of time—geologically speaking—and as a result came to inhabit swamps, rivers and even parts of some of the world's oceans.

The "sudden" death of many large predators would have had a profound impact on those that survived, the researchers note, setting back the evolutionary clock, so to speak, providing new avenues for their evolution—similar they say, to the way mammals became dominant after the extinction event that later spelled doom for the dinosaurs.

Explore further: Probing Question: Why did mammals survive the 'K/T extinction'?

More information: Triassic–Jurassic mass extinction as trigger for the Mesozoic radiation of crocodylomorphs, Biology Letters, Published 27 March 2013 doi: 10.1098/rsbl.2013.0095 .

Pseudosuchia, one of the two main clades of Archosauria (Reptilia: Diapsida), suffered a major decline in lineage diversity during the Triassic–Jurassic (TJ) mass extinction (approx. 201 Ma). Crocodylomorpha, including living crocodilians and their extinct relatives, is the only group of pseudosuchians that survived into the Jurassic. We reassess changes in pseudosuchian morphological diversity (disparity) across this time interval, using considerably larger sample sizes than in previous analyses. Our results show that metrics of pseudosuchian disparity did not change significantly across the TJ boundary, contrasting with previous work suggesting low pseudosuchian disparity in the Early Jurassic following the TJ mass extinction. However, a significant shift in morphospace occupation between Late Triassic and Early Jurassic taxa is recognized, suggesting that the TJ extinction of many pseudosuchian lineages was followed by a major and geologically rapid adaptive radiation of crocodylomorphs. This marks the onset of the spectacularly successful evolutionary history of crocodylomorphs in Jurassic and Cretaceous ecosystems.

Related Stories

Size of mammals exploded after dinosaur extinction

November 25, 2010

Researchers demonstrate that the extinction of dinosaurs 65 million years ago made way for mammals to get bigger - about a thousand times bigger than they had been. The study, which is published in the prestigious journal ...

The sea dragons bounce back

May 4, 2011

( -- The evolution of ichthyosaurs, important marine predators of the age of dinosaurs, was hit hard by a mass extinction event 200 million years ago, according to a new study from the University of Bristol published ...

Tough turtles survive cretaceous meteorite impact

July 12, 2011

( -- New fossil localities from North Dakota and Montana have produced the remains of a turtle that survived the 65 million-year-old meteorite impact that wiped out the dinosaurs. The resulting study, published ...

Recommended for you

Study sheds new light on ancient human-turkey relationship

January 17, 2018

For the first time, research has uncovered the origins of the earliest domestic turkeys in ancient Mexico. The study also suggests turkeys weren't only prized for their meat—with demand for the birds soaring with the Mayans ...


Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

3.4 / 5 (5) Mar 28, 2013
Didn't know they could tell "Tales":) Don't you have spell checkers?
5 / 5 (2) Mar 28, 2013
Except, of course, that the lone surviving dinosaur clade of birds still dominate as far as species diversity goes: 10 000 vs 6 000 species. =D
3.7 / 5 (3) Mar 28, 2013
Didn't know they could tell "Tales":) Don't you have spell checkers?

For a second I thought you meant the pseudosuchians. Imagining a large reptile like creature with tiny reading glasses on, "Do I hit F7 or shift F7, I forget!"
3.7 / 5 (6) Mar 28, 2013
"big strong tales"? "the dominate species"?
You cannot blindly rely on spell-checkers.
Help Wanted: Proofreader!
1 / 5 (5) Mar 28, 2013
So, there were two lineages of archosaurs - dinosaurs and pseudosuchians. Today, only one lineage from either still survives - birds and crocodilians. And both groups of descendants are smaller than their ancestors.

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.