For the first time ever, researchers have used “network theory” to visually depict the movement of dinosaurs during the Mesozoic Era, revealing a curious exodus from Europe, according to a research published in the Journal of Biogeography.
Findings also support previous studies that have found that dinosaurs continued to migrate around the world after the ‘supercontinent’ Pangaea split into individual land masses separated by ocean.
“We presume that temporary land bridges formed due to changes in sea levels, temporarily reconnecting the continents,” said lead author Alex Dunhill from the School of Earth and Environment at the University of Leeds.
“Such massive structures — spanning, for example, from Indo-Madagascar to Australia — may be hard to imagine. But over the timescales that we are talking about, which is in the order of tens of millions of years, it is perfectly feasible that plate tectonic activity gave rise to the right conditions for such land bridges to form.”
For the study, Paleobiology Database – which contains every documented and accessible dinosaur fossil from around the world – was used by the researchers. The researchers then cross-mapped fossil records for the same dinosaur families from different continents for different periods of time, showing relationships that reveal their migration pattern.
Europe, as well as few other parts of the world has large-scale fossil records from a long chronicle of paleontology digs, while other parts of the world haven’t been well explored. A filter was used to the database records to only count the first time that a dinosaur family relationship happened between two continents.
The findings support the notion that, although continental splitting clearly reduced intercontinental migration of dinosaurs, it did not completely hinder it.
Another surprising fact revealed by the research was that all connections between Europe and other continents during the Early Cretaceous period, which was 125-100 million years ago, were out-going. Which means while dinosaurs were exiting Europe, no new families of the beasts were entering the continent.
“This is a curious result that has no concrete explanation. It might be a real migratory pattern or it may be an artefact of the incomplete and sporadic nature of the dinosaur fossil record,” says Dr. Dunhill.
Network theory is a common method used by computer scientists to map out connections between places or people online – allowing for the visualization of friends on Facebook, for instance.