Washington, Jan 30 (ANI): A new study by researchers at the University of Bath and London's Natural History Museum has found that scientists' knowledge of the evolution of dinosaurs is remarkably complete.
Evolutionary biologists use two ways to study the evolution of prehistoric plants and animals.
Firstly, they use radioactive dating techniques to put fossils in chronological order according to the age of the rocks in which they are found.
Secondly, they observe and classify the characteristics of fossilized remains according to their relatedness.
Dr Matthew Wills from the University of Bath's Department of Biology and Biochemistry worked with Dr Paul Barrett from the Natural History Museum and Julia Heathcote at Birkbeck College (London) to analyze statistical data from fossils of the four major groups of dinosaur to see how closely they matched their trees of evolutionary relatedness.
The researchers found that the fossil record for the dinosaurs studied, ranging from gigantic sauropods to two-legged meat eaters such as T. rex, matched very well with the evolutionary tree, meaning that the current view of evolution of these creatures is very accurate.
According to Dr Matthew Wills, "We have two independent lines of evidence on the history of life: the chronological order of fossils in the rocks, and 'trees' of evolutionary relatedness."
"When the two tell the same story, the most likely explanation is that both reflect the truth. When they disagree, and the order of animals on the tree is out of whack with the order in the rocks, you either have a dodgy tree, lots of missing fossils, or both," he added.
"What we've shown in this study is that the agreement for dinosaurs is remarkably good, meaning that we can have faith in both our understanding of their evolution, and the relative completeness of their fossil record," said Dr Wills.
"In other words, our knowledge of dinosaurs is very, very good," he added.
The researchers studied gaps in the fossil record, so-called 'ghost ranges', where the evolutionary tree indicates there should be fossils but where none have yet been found.
They mapped these gaps onto the evolutionary tree and calculated statistical probabilities to find the closeness of the match.
"We are excited that our data show an almost perfect agreement between the evolutionary tree and the ages of fossils in the rocks. This is because it confirms that the fossil record offers an extremely accurate account of how these amazing animals evolved over time and gives clues as to how mammals and birds evolved from them," said Dr Wills. (ANI)