HOW DINOSAURS DIED OUT FROM MY POINT OF VIEW
The more than 10, species of living birds are descendants of the survivors of the asteroid impact. But dinosaurs were already in decline. In the 10 million years before the impact, the number of species almost halved. A likely cause is the loss of habitats due to the retreat of inland seas and climate change caused by volcanism in the Deccan Traps on the Indian subcontinent.
When dinosaurs went extinct, many animals literally came out of the dark
Remaining species of dinosaurs appear to have been doing fine until the Chicxulub asteroid struck. For scale, the Pinatubo eruption in , which injected large amounts of ash and gas high into the atmosphere that spread worldwide, caused an average global cooling of 0. The asteroid impact had a cooling effect many magnitudes greater. As the author Mark Twain once said, reports of my death are greatly exaggerated. Dinosaurs are alive and well in a chicken coop near you.
In New Zealand, a region that was far from Chicxulub at the time of the impact, a full ecological suite of dinosaurs survived for another million years. Jeffrey Stilwell at Monash University in Australia and colleagues have found three herbivorous and two carnivorous species. It is interesting to reflect on what prevented the resurgence of dinosaurs from this base. To answer this question — or ask a new one — email lastword newscientist.
Questions should be scientific enquiries about everyday phenomena, and both questions and answers should be concise. We reserve the right to edit items for clarity and style. In Montana, there is suddenly a deafening sonic boom — it is the sound of the asteroid hitting Earth 2, miles away, and has taken that long to travel the distance northward.
The noise ruptures the ears of those dinosaurs still alive.
As the world turns, the fiery cloud spreads around the globe. It is charged with millions of volts of static electricity, creating spectacular electrical storms. Across the planet, landslides and earthquakes caused by the blast lead to further tsunamis. Now the effects of the asteroid strike are reaching the islands and seas that will one day become Western Europe. Here, the earth is shaking and wildfires have been ignited across the land.
Plants including magnolias, sassafras, gingkoes and cycads are swallowed by the flames. The biggest land animals ever, the sauropods, are fighting for life.
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The herbivore iguanodon, one of the most successful dinosaurs of its day, with a thumb in the shape of a defensive spike, finds itself as helpless as all the others in the face of this catastrophe. In the Gulf of Mexico, the first of numerous super-tsunamis that have bounced off coastlines starts to batter the rim of the Chicxulub crater. Thousands of tons of water topple down its sides.
All the forests on the Indian sub-continent, 9, miles from the crater, are ablaze. In the deserts of southern Mongolia, large ostrich-like citipati are sitting on clutches of eggs, their feathered arms spreading to the edges of their nests to protect the eggs from the sun. Here there are no fires but for the past few hours the temperature has been rising alarmingly.
The citipati are slowly being cooked alive.
In North America, it is cooler but the air is still thick with smoke from wildfires. Countless herds of triceratops, horned creatures the size of elephants, that had been feeding happily in swamps, are dead or dying. The high-walled nests of the females, each containing between 15 and 20 eggs hidden under conifer branches, lie abandoned. Debris from the crater is still heading into space at high speed. Within weeks, some of it will be orbiting the Sun. Fragments will eventually land on Mars and on the moons of Saturn and Jupiter.
This debris may contain living microbes and so have exported life from Earth into space.
Why we can’t get over the death of the dinosaurs
Now we have a far deeper understanding of the timeline of events that occurred when the asteroid hit. The sky is still dark. Photosynthesis has been suspended and plants are dying. Any large herbivores that survived the effects of the impact, such as the sauropods, horned ceratopsians and the duck-billed hadrosaur, are starting to starve.
In the oceans, the once-teeming, photosynthesising plankton have died, so the fish that feed on them have also perished. Giant reptiles such as the crocodile-toothed mosasaurus will soon run out of dead fish to feed on. The remaining meat-eating dinosaurs are starving, deprived of their prey.
However, one type — the avian dinosaurs known as birds — are showing signs that they may survive the apocalypse. Their ability to fly means some have been able to escape and find less harsh conditions — and as small creatures breed faster than large ones, they will adapt faster to new environments.
These survivors will evolve over millions of years into birds we know today, such as penguins, owls and ducks. In the sea, turtles and crocodiles, able to eat decaying plants, have also survived. The fires have died down and the Earth is cold and dark.
The darkness will last for two more months. Any animal larger than a crocodile has been wiped out. Acid rain is falling and the atmosphere is full of billions of tons of carbon dioxide, methane and carbon monoxide. These greenhouse gases were released when layers of limestone were vaporised in the impact crater. The world is quieter without the marauding dinosaurs.
No longer will the velociraptor tear into its prey with serrated teeth, or the horned carnotaurus bludgeon animals to death. Scientists believe that if the asteroid had fallen just a few minutes later, the fate of our planet would have been very different.
Two days to impact
An impact in deeper water, after the Earth had turned, would have meant much of the force was absorbed, resulting in less intense firestorms and a smaller quantity of rock being flung into the atmosphere. As one world ends, another begins. The dust clears and sunlight begins to warm the Earth. Plant life eventually recovers. Within a few hundred thousand years, the world is again covered by swamps and jungles. The demise of the dinosaurs has given mammals, hitherto insignificant, an opportunity to expand in number and variety.
Mammals had long lived in the shadow of the dinosaurs but now their time has come. The ancestors of elephants, rodents, bats and whales start to appear — and so does our own distant ancestor, the earliest primate. The views expressed in the contents above are those of our users and do not necessarily reflect the views of MailOnline.
How Did Dinosaurs Become Extinct? | Scholastic
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