A series of major volcanic eruptions that took place more than 230 million years ago may have driven the rise of dinosaurs, scientists believe.
During the Late Triassic Carnian Pluvial Episode (CPE) the world experienced significant environmental changes which led to an increase in temperatures and humidity, largely due to volcanic activity.
This interval forced some species into extinction while others evolved, as well as the plants they fed on and changes to the atmosphere.
Researchers, including a group from the University of Birmingham, analysed sediment and fossil plant records from a lake in northern China’s Jiyuan Basin to better understand what happened, matching it up with pulses of volcanic activity.
They broke down the period into four distinct episodes of volcanic activity.
In addition to dinosaurs, this remarkable period in Earth history was also important for the rise of modern conifer groups and had a major impact on the evolution of terrestrial ecosystems and animal and plant life - including ferns, crocodiles, turtles, insects and the first mammals
Professor Jason Hilton, University of Birmingham
“Within the space of two million years the world’s animal and plant life underwent major changes including selective extinctions in the marine realm and diversification of plant and animal groups on land,” said Professor Jason Hilton, from the University of Birmingham, who co-authored a paper published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences journal.
“These events coincide with a remarkable interval of intense rainfall known as the Carnian Pluvial Episode.
“Our research shows, in a detailed record from a lake in north China, that this period can actually be resolved into four distinct events, each one driven by discrete pulses of powerful volcanic activity associated with enormous releases of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.
“These triggered an increase in global temperature and humidity.”
He added: “In addition to dinosaurs, this remarkable period in Earth history was also important for the rise of modern conifer groups and had a major impact on the evolution of terrestrial ecosystems and animal and plant life – including ferns, crocodiles, turtles, insects and the first mammals.”