Increases in sampling support the southern Gondwanan hypothesis for the origin of dinosaurs

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  • The Natural History Museum, London


Dinosaurs were ubiquitous in terrestrial ecosystems through most of the
Mesozoic and are still diversely represented in the modern fauna in the form of birds. Recent efforts to better understand the origins of the group have resulted in the discovery of many new species of early dinosaurs and their closest relatives (dinosauromorphs). In addition, recent re-examinations of early dinosaur phylogeny have highlighted uncertainties regarding the interrelationships of the main dinosaur lineages (Sauropodomorpha, Theropoda and Ornithischia), and questioned the traditional hypothesis that the group originated in South Gondwana and gradually dispersed over Pangaea. Here, we use a historical approach to examine the impact of new fossil discoveries and changing phylogenetic hypotheses on biogeographic scenarios for dinosaur origins over 20 years of research time, and analyse the results in the light of different fossil record sampling regimes. Our results consistently optimize South Gondwana as the ancestral area for Dinosauria, as well as for more inclusive clades including Dinosauromorpha, and show that this hypothesis is robust to increased taxonomic and geographic sampling and divergent phylogenetic results. Our results do not find any support for the recently proposed Laurasian origin of dinosaurs and suggest that a southern Gondwanan origin is by far the most plausible given our current knowledge of the diversity of early dinosaurs and non-dinosaurian dinosauromorphs.


Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)473-482
Number of pages10
Issue number3
Early online date12 Dec 2018
Publication statusPublished - 1 May 2019


  • BioGeoBEARS, Dinosauria, Gondwana, Triassic, biogeography, sampling