One day, a couple of unsuspecting giant lizards were strolling, searching for food, exploring the land when suddenly, a loud explosion attracted their attention. Several days later almost all life on Earth vanished, leaving just a few survivors, enough for them to be the ancestors of modern-day beings. Until now, the researchers agreed that the mega-reptiles were flourishing prior to the mass extinction event, but it sees dinosaurs were dying out before the asteroid hit.
Roughly sixty-six million years ago, the Earth was hit by an asteroid. This sudden event led to the extinction of the dinosaurs, the dominating species on the planet at that moment. Up until recent, paleontologists believed that the reptiles were flourishing, and if the incident never had happened, then they would still roam the Earth.
But Michael Benton disagrees. According to the paleontologist, the dinosaurs were dying out before the asteroid hit. The giant reptiles were threatened by extinction long before the universe conspired against them and delivered the ultimate blow.
Benton argues that one can see the evidence of their dwindling numbers by analyzing the evolutionary patterns. There were too many fading species and too little new ones to ensure the survival of the dinosaurs. The lizards were slowly but surely fading out, making room for other new species like the birds and the mammals.
According to the study that was based on modern statistical techniques, the dinosaurs were dying out before the asteroid hit. But what made them think that?
First, one must understand the way in which the researchers tackled the matter. They analyzed a family tree that included 614 species of dinosaurs by modeling the rates at which old species disappeared, and new ones took their place.
The researchers focused not on particular species, but speciation events, or the times in which an individual species divided into two different ones.
And it seems that the sauropods suffered the most. In the early Jurassic, they thrived, culminating with the appearance of the Diplodocus and the Brontosaurus in the late Jurassic. But then something happened, and the sauropods started losing species after species. Not even the titanosaur was able to save the sauropods from rapid and absolute decline.
The carnivores went through similar changes, leaving a gap in the family tree, and researchers believing that the dinosaurs were dying out before the asteroid hit.
In the end, the asteroid was more of a common curtsy from the part of the universe, a final merciful blow for a species that was already doomed for a couple of millions of years.
Image source: Pixabay