Study shows dinosaurs thrived when asteroids struck

Dinosaurs were being crushed in their prime, not in decline, when an asteroid hit Earth, a new study finds.

The groundbreaking results provide the strongest evidence yet that animals ruled the world until a deadly asteroid struck Earth and led to its mass extinction 66 million years ago, researchers say.

Scientists have long debated why non-avian dinosaurs, including Tyrannosaurus Rex and Triceratops, went extinct — while mammals and other species like turtles and crocodiles survived.

The results suggest that the mammals that survived the asteroid impact may have done so because they had already adapted to their environment and were therefore able to change more quickly.

The study, led by an international team of paleontologists and ecologists, analyzed 1,600 fossil finds from North America.

They modeled the food chains and ecological habitats of terrestrial and freshwater animals during the last million years of the Cretaceous and the first few million years of the Paleogene after the asteroid impact. They found that many small mammals lived alongside the dinosaurs.

Paleontologists have known for some time that these mammals lived alongside dinosaurs, but new research shows that the creatures diversified their diets, adapted to their environments, and became more important components of ecosystems over the course of the Cretaceous period.

Meanwhile, the dinosaurs were excellently adapted to what suited them, the study found.

Experts say mammals didn’t just take advantage of the die-off of dinosaurs. They created their own advantages through diversification—evolving more diverse diets and behaviors, and accommodating small climate changes through rapid adaptation.

According to the researchers, this behavior likely helped them survive, as they coped better than the dinosaurs with the radical and abrupt destruction caused by the asteroid.

Co-lead author Alfio Alessandro Chiarenza, from the Department of Ecology and Animal Biology at the University of Vigo in Spain, said: “It seems that the stable ecology of the last dinosaurs actually hampered their survival after the asteroid impact, abruptly changing the ecological rules of the time.”

“Conversely, some birds, mammals, crocodiles and turtles were previously better adapted to unstable and rapid changes in their environment, which might have made them better able to survive when things suddenly went bad when the asteroid hit.”

Senior author Professor Steve Brusatte, Personal Chair in Paleontology and Evolution at Edinburgh University’s School of GeoSciences, said: “Dinosaurs were strong, with stable ecosystems, until the asteroid suddenly killed them.

“Meanwhile, mammals diversified their diet, ecology, and behaviors while the dinosaurs were still alive.

“So mammals didn’t just take advantage of the extinction of the dinosaurs, they made their own advantages, which they ecologically adapted to survive the extinction and move into niches left empty by the dead dinosaurs.”

The new research is published in the journal scientific advances. Study shows dinosaurs thrived when asteroids struck

Fry Electronics Team

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