Early Mammals Evolved Unexpectedly Fast After the Dinosaurs Went Extinct

Early Mammals Evolved Unexpectedly Fast After the Dinosaurs Went Extinct

Common sense tells you that after a devastating impact such as the Chicxulub asteroid that collided with Earth 66 million years ago, our planet became a complete wasteland for a very long time. The impact created a giant crater of 25,450 square kilometres buried beneath today’s Yucatan Peninsula from Mexico.

Scientists discovered three new species of early mammals, and the analysis suggests that the creatures evolved pretty fast after the extinction of the dinosaurs. The fossils were found in the Great Divide Basin of Wyoming.

The early Puercan North American Land Mammal Age began

The early Puercan North American Land Mammal Age means when prehistoric mammals lived in North America only a few hundred thousand years after the dinosaurs went extinct. More precisely, we’re talking about the first 328,000 years after the dinosaurs disappeared completely.

Credit: Pixabay.com, Родион Журавлёв
Credit: Pixabay.com, Родион Журавлёв

The mammals in question were condylarths, meaning that they were related to nowadays mammals such as cows, elephants, horses, and hippos.

Madelaine Atteberry is the lead author of the new study and also a geologist and undergraduate program assistant at the University of Colorado Boulder Geological Sciences Department. Atteberry explained, as quoted by CNN:

When the dinosaurs went extinct, access to different foods and environments enabled mammals to flourish and diversify rapidly in their tooth anatomy and evolve larger body size,

They clearly took advantage of this opportunity, as we can see from the radiation of new mammal species that took place in a relatively short amount of time following the mass extinction.

The Chicxulub crater has a diameter that measures 159 km. The explosion alone wasn’t the only aspect that made the dinosaurs go extinct. The sunlight was also blocked for hundreds of years.

The new study was published in the Journal of Systematic Palaeontology.

Cristian Antonescu

Even since he was a child, Cristian was staring curiously at the stars, wondering about the Universe and our place in it. Today he's seeing his dream come true by writing about the latest news in astronomy. Cristian is also glad to be covering health and other science topics, having significant experience in writing about such fields.

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