The distribution patterns of sedimentary A-ring methylated steranes have changed markedly over geological time. Although dinosterane and its isomer 24-ethyl-4α-methylcholestane have been tentatively identified in three Proterozoic rock units, they are either not detectable or occur in low abundance relative to 3-methyl steranes throughout most of the Palaeozoic. Between Permian and middle Triassic times (260-220 Ma ago), 4-methyl sterane abundances in marine sediments increased markedly. The presence of dinosterane in some middle Triassic marine sediments is contemporaneous with the appearance of fossil cysts of uncontested dinoflagellate affinity. 4-Methyl steranes, including dinosterane or their precursor sterenes and sterols, then show a continuous presence, often in high abundance, in marine sediments from the late Triassic through to the present day. Assemblages of 4-methyl steranes and their precursors, but with dinosterane absent or in low relative abundance, are often the predominant steroids in lacustrine sediments in the Cainozoic. Dinosterane appears to arise predominantly from marine dinoflagellates and, as a consequence, is a useful biological marker for Mesozoic and Cainozoic marine organic matter. The isomer 24-ethyl-4α-methylcholestane is likely to have multiple origins although its very high abundance in Tertiary lacustrine sediments and oils, compared to older materials, suggests that dinoflagellates could also be the source in these cases.