Asteroid impact grounded bird ancestors

Asteroid impact grounded bird ancestors

Asteroid impact grounded bird ancestors

"Everyone knows an asteroid the size of Manhattan caused a mass extinction 66 million years ago". Following the cataclysm, these survivors rapidly evolved into most of the lineages of modern birds we are familiar with today, according to paleontologists led by Daniel Field at the University of Bath in the United Kingdom. Still, or years, experts have tried to find out why only certain birds survived the extinction event while all the others perished. "The cascading outcome of our conclusion is that carbon dioxide emissions would have been, perhaps, ten years, and the warming lasted 100,000 years", explained the study's lead author Ken MacLeod, a paleontologist at the University of Missouri.

An worldwide team of researchers from the U.S., England, and Sweden pieced together evidence from the plant fossil record and ecology of ancient and modern birds, in order to conduct the study.

"After a disaster like a forest fire or a volcanic eruption, the first plants to come back are the fastest colonizers-especially ferns", Dunn said. This is due to fact that ferns do not sprout from seeds, but from small spores that are made up of just a single cell. "They get picked up by the wind and go further than seeds can, and all they need to grow is a wet spot". The chance of surviving the asteroid was already slim for tree-dwelling birds; eliminating their habitat ensured extinction.

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First, they analyzed, the plant fossil record in North America, New Zealand, Japan and Europe-specifically microscopic fossils of pollen and spores-which helped confirm that forests around the world collapsed after the impact. The birds that did survive were ground-dwellers-birds whose fossilized remains show longer, sturdier legs like we see in modern ground birds like kiwis and emus. Tree-dwelling birds have delicate legs that are designed for perching on branches, and they had no place left to live.

"Perhaps the best modern analogue for one of the surviving birds lineages are modern tinamous - this is a modern group of flying relatives of ostriches: they are relatively small bodied, and live on the ground", Dr Field said. "Just a handful of ancestral bird family trees was successful in enduring the mass termination occasion 66 million years back, and all these days's remarkable living bird variety can be traced to these ancient survivors". "The composition and distribution of life on Earth today can not be understood except in light of this cataclysm", said Yale professor of geology and geophysics Jacques Gauthier, co-author of a study published May 24 in Current Biology. "Plants are everything, plants are the context in which all terrestrial life evolves and survives".

An artist's rendering from 1994, illustrating the Chicxulub asteroid impact that killed off most of the dinosaurs about 66 million years ago.

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This is a contentious scientific field, and the new paper quickly generated pushback from Gerta Keller, a Princeton geologist who has long argued that the end-Cretaceous mass extinction was triggered by volcanism in India - a huge flood of basaltic lava that created a vast geological formation known as the Deccan Traps.

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