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Researchers have for the first time visually depicted the movement of dinosaurs around the world during the Mesozoic Era -- from about 252 to 66 million years ago -- including a curious exodus from Europe.
The analysis -- based on "network theory" used to gather internet data -- also reaffirms previous studies that have found that dinosaurs continued to migrate to all parts of the world after Pangaea -- a supercontinent that existed during the late Paleozoic and early Mesozoic eras -- split into landmasses that are separated by oceans.
The findings revealed that although continental splitting undoubtedly reduced intercontinental migration of dinosaurs, it did not completely inhibit it.
While "network theory" is commonly used in computer science for quantifying internet data, such as friend connections on Facebook, it has only recently been applied to biology research and this is the first study to use it to on dinosaur research
The analysis also showed that all connections between Europe and other continents during the Early Cretaceous period -- 125-100 million years ago -- were out-going.
While dinosaur families were leaving Europe, no new families were migrating into Europe.
"This is a curious result that has no concrete explanation.
It might be a real migratory pattern or it may be an artefact of the incomplete and sporadic nature of the dinosaur fossil record," said lead researcher Alex Dunhill at University of Leeds in Britain.
For the study, published in the Journal of Biogeography, the team used the Paleobiology database that contains every documented and accessible dinosaur fossil from around the world.
Fossil records for the same dinosaur families from different continents were then cross-mapped for different periods of time, revealing connections that show how they have migrated.