Researchers propose radical overhaul of dinosaur family tree

Researchers proposes radical overhaul of dinosaurs’ family tree

Proposing a radical overhaul of the dinosaurs’ family tree, a team of researchers said that the meat-eating group of the extinct creatures that includes Tyrannosaurus rex shouldn’t be placed with the long-necked, four-legged plant-eaters like Brontosaurus.

The newly-proposed dinosaur family tree includes two reformulated categories (clades) of the extinct creatures to replace the two that have been recognized since 1888.

Led by University of Cambridge paleontologist Matthew Baron, the researchers also pushed the origin of dinosaurs back to soon after a mass extinction that occurred roughly 252 million years ago.

Speaking on the topic, Baron said, “We may be proved to be correct, we may not. But what has to happen now is a complete abandonment of old dogmatic views across the field because we have shown that rigorous and objective studies can pull apart age-old ideas…”

As per their proposal, dinosaurs should be categorized in two new categories: Ornithoscelida, which joins the theropods with all of the current members of Ornithischia; while the existing Saurischia group would lose the theropods and add a primitive group of 2-legged carnivores dubbed herrerasaurids.

Baron and his colleagues looked at 450 characteristics of 75 dinosaur species. They used computer simulations to group together those with similar characteristics, creating tens of thousands of potential dinosaur family trees. The proposed family tree combines the 80 most likely scenarios, he said.

The researchers detailed their proposed new dinosaur family tree in the most recent edition of the journal Nature.

“If the authors are correct, this really turns our long-standing understanding of dinosaur evolution upside down,” Kristi Curry Rogers, a paleontologist at Macalester College in Minnesota. Rogers wasn't part of the current study.

A BBC report informed, "The reassessment shows that the meat eating beasts, such as Tyrannosaurus rex and Velociraptor, have been wrongly classified in the dinosaur family tree. One of the implications is that dinosaurs first emerged 15 million years earlier than previously believed."

Cambridge's Prof David Norman, who supervised the study, said, "All the major textbooks covering the topic of the evolution of the vertebrates will now need to be re-written if this suggestion survives academic scrutiny and becomes accepted more widely."