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Mechanisms of Evolution

A scientist who has been studying a dinosaur fossil found on the East Coast of North America says it is evidence that the continent was divided in half by a shallow sea 100 million years ago.

Dr Nick Longrich, from the Milner Centre for Evolution, has been studying the jaw fragments of a horned dinosaur about the size of a dog. It is believed to be the smaller cousin of the better-known Triceratops – both members of the Ceratopsia dinosaur family.

The jaw fragments are more slender than that of Ceratopsia found on the West Coast of North America, suggesting the dinosaurs evolved differently based on their diets.

‘It seems that animals in the eastern part of North America in the Late Cretaceous period evolved in a completely different way to those found in the western part of what is now North America due to a long period of isolation,’ Dr Longrich said.

‘This adds to the theory that these two land masses were separated by a stretch of water, stopping animals from moving between them, causing the animals to evolve in a completely different direction, resulting in some pretty weird looking dinosaurs.’

Watch the Mechanisms of Evolution to learn more about evolutionary theory.

Or watch Fossil Evidence to learn more about how fossils have helped us to understand the past.