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Dinosaur ancestors hardier than thought

Paleontologists have found that precursors to dinosaurs weren't so rapidly replaced as previously thought.

Everybody loves phrases like "when dinosaurs ruled the world," but it appears the reptiles had a more halting ascendance to world domination than scientists had earlier believed.

Paleontologists, sifting through fossils in New Mexico, found in the same location skeletons of dinosaurs and dinosaur precursor species that scientists had thought were rapidly replaced by the dinosaurs themselves. The results were reported last week in the journal Science. The paleontologists were from the University of California at Berkeley, the American Museum of Natural History, the Field Museum and the University of Colorado at Boulder.

"Up to now, paleontologists have thought that dinosaur precursors disappeared long before the dinosaurs appeared, that their ancestors probably were out-competed and replaced by dinosaurs and didn't survive. Now, the evidence shows that they may have co-existed for 15 or 20 million years or more," said co-author Kevin Padian, professor of integrative biology at UC Berkeley, in a statement from the university.

The species were found at a quarry near Ghost Ranch, N.M., famous for providing subject matter for Georgia O'Keeffe's paintings. A hiker first discovered fossils at the site, called the Hayden Quarry, in 2002.