Throughout the age of dinosaurs, beginning in the late Paleozoic era and ending during the Cretaceous period, the creatures endured major climate change on more than one occasion. Although it is theorized that their final extinction was caused by the impact of a large asteroid or meteorite, there were several mass extinctions predating the impact that caused the global catastrophe.
During the Paleozoic era, beginning 410-360 million years ago, dinosaurs died off in large numbers but were able to rebound more than once, with only the strongest evolutionary product surviving in the wake of these extinctions.
In this case the Paleozoic era was a proving ground for the creatures that would come to reign during the Mesozoic era. The hot and humid environment of the late Carboniferous period, and throughout the Permian period until the end of the Paleozoic era, began certain evolutionary changes in the animals. These adaptations and conditioning of their bodies to their environment would equip dinosaurs with the skills necessary to not only survive, but to flourish throughout the dramatic climate changes that were to come.
During the height of the dinosaur era the earth’s climate was much like it is today, with the exception of it being warmer and much more humid. The average global temperature is estimated to have been around 72 degrees, though four times throughout the Paleozoic and Mesozoic eras the planet suffered a sudden drop in the average temperature. Roughly, every 125-150 million years the average dropped by almost twenty degrees for a span of several generations.
During the Triassic period, which is the beginning of the Mesozoic era (250-200 million years ago); the earth was still comprised of one large supercontinent called Pangea, and one large ocean named Panthalassa. Tectonic activity had already began to fracture the continent and this land mass would later split and drift apart to form the continents as we know them today. At this time however, Pangea was only beginning the process of separation and the existence of this supercontinent had major effects on its own self-contained climate.
Pangea was positioned near the equator, which naturally made it warmer across the entire continent, and at this point the humidity was much higher than it is today. Due to its enormous size and the low sea level during that period, Pangea suffered extreme temperature changes from its interior core, to its external coastal regions.
The interior contained hot and dry desert lands while the middle regions were more temperate. Vegetation was sparse throughout most of the Mesozoic era, and it wasn’t until the end of the cretaceous period that flowering plants began to grow. The temperature and conditions were comparable all across the globe however, and with no glaciations present the poles had roughly the same average temperature as the rest of the planet. This balance was likely caused by the existence of one large ocean, Panthalassa, who’s vast and complex undercurrents ensured that hot and cold temperatures were constantly mixing with one another.
The climate changed a lot during the late Paleozoic era and throughout the Mesozoic era, and at least four times the Earth experienced global temperature change on a scale unlike anything we’ve seen in our very short period of recorded history. These changes occurred over hundreds of millions of years, and the dinosaurs survived due to evolutionary enhancements that were a direct product of their surroundings. Through evolutionary development they endured global change on a massive scale, as well as the vicious seasonal extremes of the Mesozoic era.