A single asteroid causing the extinction of roughly 700 species of dinosaurs might sound a bit exaggerated for many, even though that space rock measured somewhere between 11 and 81 kilometers in its diameter. You might at least be tempted to believe that the dinosaur species was taking its last breath when the asteroid hit.
A new study by an international team of paleontologists and ecologists that involved the analysis of 1,600 fossil records from North America provides evidence not only that dinosaurs were not in decline when Chicxulub collided with Earth; the ferocious reptiles were actually doing better than ever, the research claims.
The dinosaur-killing asteroid led to the extinction of the dinosaurs roughly 66 million years ago
It wasn’t only the impact itself that caused the extinction of the dinosaurs. After the collision, a huge blanket of dust and ashes stopped the sunlight from reaching the planet for hundreds of years. While lacking light from the sun, plants started to die, which we all know that they provide oxygen for all creatures to live. Since dinosaurs also needed oxygen to breathe, those huge beasts started to perish as well.
To come to their new conclusion, researchers had to model the food chains and ecological habitats of animals that have been living during the Cretaceous’ last few million years, as well as during the first few million years that took place during the Paleogene period.
Steve Brusatte, the senior author of the study, explained:
Dinosaurs were going strong, with stable ecosystems, right until the asteroid suddenly killed them off. Meanwhile, mammals were diversifying their diets, ecologies, and behaviors while dinosaurs were still alive. So it wasn’t simply that mammals took advantage of the dinosaurs dying, but they were making their own advantages, which ecologically preadapted them to survive the extinction and move into niches left vacant by the dead dinosaurs.
The new research was published in Science Advances.