There really isn’t all that much to say about dinosaurs, at least not in this context. Odds are that you’re already interested in the long-deceased reptiles, and that you have been so for a while .But even if you aren’t, it’s impossible that you don’t still know a few things about the majestic reptiles and their reign on our planet.
Of course, one of the most commonly known things about dinosaurs is the way they went extinct. A huge comet about six miles wide hit the planet sixty-six million years ago with the force of several hundred million atomic bombs, leading to the end of an era and to the deaths of most dinosaur species.
But paleontologists have long been wondering whether the comet was the only thing that caused the gigantic beasts’ reign to collapse, or if there was more behind it. So, a team of researchers from England made a model of the dinosaurs’ distribution and concluded that dinosaurs were on the decline before the comet hit.
Now, don’t get me wrong. They weren’t going away, at least not for a long while. But the creatures had stopped their intense speciation, with far fewer species popping up than ever before. In fact, the creatures were actually facing several troubling issues right before the comet struck and made all those points moot.
So, analyzing fossils in order to determine what the truth was behind this decades-long debate between paleontologists, the team came up with a statistical model to see just how dinosaurs were doing before the impact. Aside from the decline in their speciation rate, the creatures were also faced with global warming issues, as billions of tons of carbon dioxide were being pumped into the atmosphere from a large number of huge, erupting volcanoes all over the world.
According to the study’s lead author, Dr. Manabu Sakamoto from the University of Reading in England,
When the landmass is continuous, you can go far. When animals settled down far away from their relatives, they would have likely evolved into separate species over time, a process that could keep repeating itself with enough space and time. But once the space is restricted, it will be a more difficult process. Plus, animals would be competing more for space and resources.
So this is what contributed to their once huge amounts of speciation and to its decline in the time period close to when the comet struck. But would they still have gone extinct if the asteroid hadn’t hit them with the equivalent of hundreds of millions of nukes? Actually, the answer is probably yes.
Just because they stopped differentiating into species that much doesn’t mean that they would have died off. No, the species that were already in existence would have started evolving over time. The ones capable would have adapted to the necessary changes, while the other would have fallen victims to evolution. But things would definitely have been different.
Image source: Wikimedia