How Ancient Eruptions Paved the Way for Early Dinosaurs

History

| LAST UPDATE 10/11/2021

By Layla Harris
dinosaurs climate change evolution
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Chances are you've probably heard about that giant asteroid, way back when, that effectively wiped out all dinosaurs. But have you ever stopped to consider how these hulking reptiles came to be? Recent studies have uncovered the rise and diversification of early dinosaurs spurred from a 2-million-year-long rainy period that changed the Earth's landscape forever.

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The aftermath of 4 major volcanic pulses enabled the Carnian Pluvial Episode, a period in which dinosaurs evolved from humble cat-like beginnings into towering domination for the next 166 million years. Researchers at the National Academy of Sciences discovered evidence to support the chain of events in sediments within a lake basin in Northern China. Their revelations indicated the creatures we recall today were the result of a climate change tipping point. One that drove massive rainfall, extreme global warming, ocean acidification, and subsequently mass extinction for any life that simply couldn't adjust.

dinosaurs climate change evolution
MARK GARLICK/SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY via Getty Images

Luckily for our dinosaur friends, the intense bouts of carbon dioxide released from the volcanic eruptions created ideal conditions for the species to thrive. Due to intensified global temperatures, shifts began to occur in the hydrological cycle that heightened rainfall and enabled more saturated conditions, perfect for reptiles and amphibians alike.

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The Planet's climate has undergone millennia of transfiguration. Each time, what existed before was never the same as what lay in its wake. But what's truly fascinating about the Carnian Pluvial period isn't just how drastically the Earth's landscape changed, but rather what we can learn from the episode as current spikes in global warming increase humanity's urgency for mitigation. Regardless, in a new age of technology and innovation, unbeknownst to dinosaurs, the potential for preventative action is fruitful.

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Although things didn't end well for these prehistoric reptiles, scientists are hopeful that our current civilization will avoid a similarly devastating end. The beauty of discovery is the advancement of growth, one where we can learn from the conditions of the past and move forward with an enhanced ability to survive.

Curious to know more? Check out the full study on the volcanic eruptions, and be sure to stay tuned!