Portal:Mesozoic

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The Mesozoic Portal

Diplodocus carng1DB.jpg

Introduction

The Mesozoic era /mɛzˈzɪk/ is an interval of geological time from about 252 to 66 million years ago. It is also called the age of reptiles, a phrase introduced by the 19th century paleontologist Gideon Mantell who viewed it as dominated by reptiles such as Iguanadon, Megalosaurus, Plesiosaurus and what are now called Pseudosuchia.

Mesozoic means "middle life", deriving from the Greek prefix meso-/μεσο- for "between" and zōon/ζῷον meaning "animal" or "living being". It is one of three geologic eras of the Phanerozoic Eon, preceded by the Paleozoic ("ancient life") and succeeded by the Cenozoic ("new life"). The era is subdivided into three major periods: the Triassic, Jurassic, and Cretaceous, which are further subdivided into a number of epochs and stages.

The era began in the wake of the Permian–Triassic extinction event, the largest well-documented mass extinction in Earth's history, and ended with the Cretaceous–Paleogene extinction event, another mass extinction which is known for having killed off non-avian dinosaurs, as well as other plant and animal species. The Mesozoic was a time of significant tectonic, climate and evolutionary activity. The era witnessed the gradual rifting of the supercontinent Pangaea into separate landmasses that would eventually move into their current positions. The climate of the Mesozoic was varied, alternating between warming and cooling periods. Overall, however, the Earth was hotter than it is today. Non-avian dinosaurs appeared in the Late Triassic and became the dominant terrestrial vertebrates early in the Jurassic, occupying this position for about 135 million years until their demise at the end of the Cretaceous. Birds first appeared in the Jurassic, having evolved from a branch of theropod dinosaurs. The first mammals also appeared during the Mesozoic, but would remain small—less than 15 kg (33 lb)—until the Cenozoic.

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Selected article on the Mesozoic world and its legacies

Artist's restoration of Nanuqsaurus.
Tyrannosauridae (or tyrannosaurids, meaning "tyrant lizards") is a family of coelurosaurian theropod dinosaurs which comprises two subfamilies containing up to eleven genera, including the eponymous Tyrannosaurus. The exact number of genera is controversial, with some experts recognizing as few as three. All of these animals lived near the end of the Cretaceous Period and their fossils have been found only in North America and Asia.

Although descended from smaller ancestors, tyrannosaurids were almost always the largest predators in their respective ecosystems, putting them at the apex of the food chain. The largest species was Tyrannosaurus rex, one of the largest known land predators, which measured up to 12.3 metres (40 ft) in length and up to 6,500 kilograms (7.2 short tons) in weight. Tyrannosaurids were bipedal carnivores with massive skulls filled with large teeth. Despite their large size, their legs were long and proportioned for fast movement. In contrast, their arms were very small, bearing only two functional digits.

Unlike most other groups of dinosaurs, very complete remains have been discovered for most known tyrannosaurids. This has allowed a variety of research into their biology. Scientific studies have focused on their ontogeny, biomechanics and ecology, among other subjects. Soft tissue, both fossilized and intact, has been reported from one specimen of Tyrannosaurus rex. (see more...)

Selected article on the Mesozoic in human science, culture and economics

Photograph of Edward Drinker Cope
Edward Drinker Cope (July 28, 1840 – April 12, 1897) was an American paleontologist and comparative anatomist, as well as a noted herpetologist and ichthyologist. Cope distinguished himself as a child prodigy, publishing his first scientific paper at the age of nineteen. Cope later married and moved from Philadelphia to Haddonfield, New Jersey, although Cope would maintain a residence and museum in Philadelphia in his later years.

Cope had little formal scientific training, and he eschewed a teaching position for field work. He made regular trips to the American West prospecting in the 1870s and 1880s, often as a member of United States Geological Survey teams. A personal feud between Cope and paleontologist Othniel Charles Marsh led to a period of intense fossil-finding competition now known as the Bone Wars. Cope's financial fortunes soured after failed mining ventures in the 1880s. He experienced a resurgence in his career toward the end of his life before dying in 1897.

Cope's scientific pursuits nearly bankrupted him, but his contributions helped to define the field of American paleontology. He was a prodigious writer, with 1,400 papers published over his lifetime, although his rivals would debate the accuracy of his rapidly published works. He discovered, described, and named more than 1,000 vertebrate species including hundreds of fishes and dozens of dinosaurs. His proposals on the origin of mammalian molars and for the gradual enlargement of mammalian species over geologic time ("Cope's Law") are notable among his theoretical contributions. (see more...)

Selected picture

Life restoration of Plateosaurus gracilis, formerly known as Sellosaurus.

Life restoration of Plateosaurus gracilis, formerly known as Sellosaurus.

Photo credit: Nobu Tamura

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Sculpture by Tyler Keillor of the Cretaceous snake Sanajeh indicus feeding on hatchling sauropod dinosaurs.

Topics

Geochronology - Triassic (Early - Middle - Late) - Jurassic (Early - Middle - Late) - Cretaceous (Early - Late)

Mesozoic landmasses - Pangaea - Gondwana - Laurasia - Africa - North America - South America - Antarctica - Asia - Australia - Europe - Appalachia - Laramidia

Major Mesozoic events - Mesozoic Marine Revolution - Carnian Pluvial Event - Triassic-Jurassic extinction event - Toarcian turnover - Cretaceous Terrestrial Revolution - Western Interior Seaway anoxia - Chicxulub impact - Cretaceous-Paleogene extinction event

Triassic appearances - Belemnites - Crickets - Dinosaurs - Earwigs - Ichthyosauromorphs - Pseudosuchians - Pterosaurs - Sauropterygians - Testudinates

Jurassic appearances - Ammonitids - Ankylosaurs - Avialans - Caecilians - Carnosaurs - Caudates - Ceratopsians - Ceratosaurs - Coelurosaurs - Cryptodires - Dromaeosaurids - Equisetum - Frogs - Horse-flies - Lepidopterans - Lizards - Mammals - Ornithopods - Pterodactyloids - Sauropods - Snakeflies - Stegosaurs - Tyrannosauroids

Cretaceous appearances - Abalones - Anglerfishes - Ants - Bees - Catfishes - Copepods - Cormorants - Crocodilians - Flowering plants - Fowls - Geckos - Hadrosauroids - Hermit crabs - Lobsters - Mosasaurs - Ornithomimosaurs - Oviraptorosaurs - Pachycephalosaurs - Requiem sharks - Sea turtles - Snakes - Squids - Stingrays - Therizinosaurs

Fossil sites - Berlin–Ichthyosaur State Park - Petrified Forest National Park - Dinosaur National Monument - Dinosaur Valley State Park

Stratigraphic units - Chinle Formation - Elliot Formation - Ischigualasto Formation - Kimmeridge Clay - Morrison Formation - Oxford Clay Formation - Solnhofen lithographic limestone - Tendaguru Formation - Crato Formation - Dinosaur Park Formation - Djadochta Formation - Hell Creek Formation - Niobrara Formation - Two Medicine Formation - Wessex Formation - Yixian Formation

History - History of paleontology - Timeline of paleontology - Timeline of ankylosaur research - Timeline of ceratopsian research - Timeline of ceratosaur research - Timeline of dromaeosaurid research - Timeline of hadrosaur research - Timeline of ichthyosaur research - Timeline of plesiosaur research - Timeline of stegosaur research - Timeline of tyrannosaur research

Researchers - William Buckland - Edward Drinker Cope - Jack Horner - Othniel Charles Marsh - Gideon Algernon Mantell - John Ostrom - Sir Richard Owen - Harry Govier Seeley - Samuel Wendell Williston

Culture - Treatise on Invertebrate Paleontology - Vertebrate Paleontology - Walking with Dinosaurs - Jurassic Park

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