Southern Africa preserves

Age of Dinosaurs began about 235 million years ago. That’s when the first lanky little dinosaurs started scurrying around the Triassic world. But dinosaurs didn’t rule the Earth. They weren’t really ruling anything. Back then, dinosaurs were relatively rare and ecologically marginal animals compared to the other reptiles of their time. It took a mass extinction – roundabout 200 million years ago – to remove the competition and allow the surviving dinosaurs to flourish. This time, the dawn of the Jurassic, is when dinosaurs staged their terrestrial takeover, and a new study based on finds in southern Africa focuses on this time as the rise of dinosaurian giants.

Early sauropodomorphs were pretty small. Panphagia from the Triassic of South America was about the size of a medium-sized dog. Nor did it look like a Brontosaurus. Early sauropodomorphs of the Triassic and early Jurassic were bipedal animals which looked increasingly awkward as they started to evolve long necks and larger sizes. And if you want to get to know these dinosaurs, there’s hardly a better place to look than the Elliot Formation of Lesotho and South Africa – a geologic chapter that contains an abundance of sauropodomorphs over the transition between the Triassic and Jurassic worlds. This is the slice that paleontologist Blair McPhee and colleagues have centered on for a reconsideration of sauropodomorphs during this critical time.

We can also become more effective at reducing, reusing, recycling, and re-purposing existing plastic. But then there is the reality check that there is so much plastic already in the environment—and so much of it is microplastic—that it is nearly impossible to truly clean up. Our planet is already forever changed.

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