Locomotor Superiority Hypothesis

There are various hypotheses about why dinosaurs succeeded in the Triassic-Jurassic transition and why the crocodile line did not enjoy the same success on land. One idea is that climate change caused by super-volcanoes turned much of the world into deserts. The super-continent of Pangaea was fragmenting at this time and increased volcanic activity is known. If food and water became scarce near the Triassic-Jurassic boundary, then maybe dinosaurs, which were mostly two-legged, lightly built and probably swift, agile animals, were able to outcompete the generally quadrupedal, more heavily built, armoured pseudosuchians because they could run faster and further and so could get more food or avoid being eaten themselves. This is called the ‘Locomotor Superiority Hypothesis’ and dates back at least to the 1970’s.

The DAWNDINOS research team will test this hypothesis first by studying locomotor behaviours including walking, running, turning, standing and jumping in living birds (descendants of Triassic dinosaurs) and living crocodiles (descendants of Triassic crocodiles). The team will then use computer simulations of extinct dinosaurs and pseudosuchians, informed by those studies of living archosaurs, to test how well they might have performed these behaviours, testing if the locomotor superiority hypothesis is plausible (or not).


Artistic interpretation of the archosaurs in the DAWNDINOS study by Jon Conway