Extreme ecosystem instability suppressed tropical dinosaur dominance for 30 million years

Jessica H. Whiteside, Sofie Lindström, Randall B. Irmis, Ian J. Glasspool, Morgan F. Schaller, Maria Dunlavey, Sterling J. Nesbitt, Nathan D. Smith, Alan H. Turner

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

    59 Citations (Scopus)


    A major unresolved aspect of the rise of dinosaurs is why early dinosaurs and their relatives were rare and species-poor at low paleolatitudes throughout the Late Triassic Period, a pattern persisting 30 million years after their origin and 10-15 million years after they became abundant and speciose at higher latitudes. New palynological, wildfire, organic carbon isotope, and atmospheric pCO 2data from early dinosaur-bearing strata of low paleolatitudes in western North America show that large, high-frequency, tightly correlated variations in δ 13C org and palynomorph ecotypes occurred within a context of elevated and increasing pCO 2 and pervasive wildfires. Whereas pseudosuchian archosaur-dominated communities were able to persist in these same regions under rapidly fluctuating extreme climatic conditions until the end-Triassic, large-bodied, fast-growing tachymetabolic dinosaurian herbivores requiring greater resources were unable to adapt to unstable high CO 2 environmental conditions of the Late Triassic.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)7909-7913
    Number of pages5
    JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
    Issue number26
    Publication statusPublished - 30 Jun 2015


    • Atmospheric CO
    • Carbon cycling
    • Early mesozoic
    • Terrestrial ecosystems
    • Wildfires

    Programme Area

    • Programme Area 3: Energy Resources


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