Global warming 300 million years ago triggered the evolutionary burst which caused tiny lizards to grow into gigantic dinosaurs, say scientists.
Howard Falcon-Lang of Royal Holloway, University of London, who carried out the research, revealed this global warming indirectly influenced mammalian evolution. "The global warming set in motion the process which led to the evolution of dinosaurs and produced different species which adapted to the climate in different ways," he said.
According to the research, around 300 million years ago the supercontinent of Pangea was covered by a huge rainforest and the reptiles which inhabited it were very similar. However, a period of global warming caused the forest to fragment into 'islands' of trees, allowing each population of trapped reptiles to evolve in a different way.
The world became so hot that the polar ice caps melted and vast forests grew at the North and South poles. The reptiles eventually moved out of the dwindling forests and into the arid desert lands before the dinosaurs arrived around 220 million years ago.
The research team made their findings by analysing and carbon dating hundreds of reptile fossils from around the world and analysing how they evolved over time.