The researchers assert that the rise in temperatures on a global scale that occurred between the Permian and Triassic periodsled to the Age of Reptiles.
Researchers at Harvard University have determined that the Age of Reptiles, a period of time in which reptiles rapidly evolved, was preceded by 60 million years of climate change and global warming.
The researchers, with the Department of Organismic and Evolutionary Biology and the Museum of Comparative Zoology at Harvard University assert that the rise in temperatures on a global scale that occurred between the Permian and Triassic periods, led to the Age of Reptiles.
Prior to the Age of Reptiles, the dominant vertebrate animals were the ancestors of mammals, called synapsids. After these animals became extinct during the Permian extinctions, reptiles began to evolve at rapid rates during what was called the Triassic Period (252-200 million years ago). This caused what the researchers say was an explosion of reptile diversity on the planet. It is believed that the growing reptile diversity at the time was due to the extinction of competitors of the cold blooded animals. The extinction of the synapsids enabled the reptiles to take over habitats and food sources previously dominated by the synapsids, the researchers said.
“Our results reveal that periods of fast climatic shifts and global warming are associated with exceptionally high rates of anatomical change in most groups of reptiles as they adapted to new environmental conditions,” senior author and Harvard Professor Stephanie E. Pierce said in a statement released by Harvard University. “This process started long before the Permian-Triassic extinction, since at least 270 million years ago, indicating that the diversification of reptile body plans was not triggered by the P-T extinction event as previously thought, but in fact started tens of million years before that.”
The researchers say that older studies on the impact of changes in climate often ignored terrestrial vertebrates because of lack of available data and focused more on marine animals.
The complete paper, “Successive climate crises in the deep past drove the early evolution and radiation of reptiles” can be read on the Science Advances website.