Co-evolution in dinosaurs and plants

Could the evolution of plants have influenced that of herbivorous dinosaurs, and vice versa?

Museum scientists have been investigating this theory.

Co-evolution is when two or more species interact with each other in such a way that the evolution of one directly influences the evolution of the other ie. 

  • pollinators evolving for particular flowers
  • interrelationship between parasites and their hosts.

Museum scientists wanted to test the theory that herbivorous dinosaurs might have co-evolved with plants. 

A more long-term co-evolution than any previously observed or demonstrated.

Building a dinosaur database

Scientists set about building a database of 

  • all known Cretaceous dinosaur occurrences 
  • all the plants that lived alongside them. 

The distributions were stored and visualised using a Geographical Information System (GIS).

Statistical tests on the GIS database showed that, in general, there were no tight relationships between particular plant and dinosaur species weakening the idea that they might have co-evolved.

Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) provided the funding.