By Thom Holmes
"Dawn of the Dinosaur Age" offers the 1st act within the drama that may turn into the Mesozoic period, the Age of Reptiles. the increase of the 1st dinosaurs is the tale of chance and evolutionary innovation. the 1st dinosaurs, after residing within the shadows of bigger, extra dominant reptilian kinfolk, took benefit of significant mass extinctions on the finish of the Triassic interval to take over niches as soon as occupied by way of their predecessors. during doing so, dinosaurs speedy radiated to common geographic levels and started an evolutionary direction that ended in the improvement of 2 significant teams of dinosaurs, the Saurischia and Ornithischia.The overdue Triassic and Early Jurassic classes have been a time of experimentation in dinosaur evolution because the earliest herbivorous and predaceous dinosaurs tailored more and more really expert physique kinds and life. "Dawn of the Dinosaur Age" explores the roots of the dinosaur genealogy and the approach to life and radiation of the 1st carnivorous and herbivorous dinosaurs.
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Additional resources for Dawn of the Dinosaur Age
5 m) long. Saltoposuchus can be described as a slender, lizardlike animal with upright legs; these probably made it one of the swiftest crurotarsans. indd 38 7/3/08 12:13:09 PM Archosaurs: The Ruling Reptiles 39 the root of the crocodile family tree. What unites them with crocodylians are the structures of their skulls, the vertebrae of the neck, and ankle structure. In the case of Saltoposuchus, its skull, although tiny, had begun to acquire traits that were recognizably crocodylian: a long skull that was two-thirds snout and that was somewhat flattened on top, nostrils placed at the very front of the snout, and robust teeth in the upper jaw that overhung the lower jaw.
5 feet (2 m) long and were likely the most dominant predatory animals in their habitats. The body plans of Proterosuchus and Erythrosuchus were similar; each had a moderately long, crocodilelike body; short legs; a long skull; and jaws equipped with conical teeth suited for crunching fish and other small vertebrates. Eryhthrosuchus had a somewhat more upright posture than Proterosuchus, suggesting that it was a better runner and more adept at chasing down prey on land. The earliest known dinosaurs appeared more than 20 million years after Proterosuchus and its closest kin.
Just what these ancestors may have been like is revealed by two pieces of evidence: the anatomy of the first known dinosaurs and a cladistic analysis of the specific traits that define them as dinosaurs. indd 52 7/3/08 12:13:18 PM Dinosaur Origins 53 The cladistic analysis provides a checklist of features that might be identified in any antecedent of the dinosaurs to which they might be closely related. Another factor concerns the most likely places to find fossils of dinosaur ancestors. The search does not begin just anywhere, but by exploring certain kinds of rock formations already known to produce fossils of terrestrial organisms that occurred just before the earliest known dinosaurs.