These Are the Creatures that Survived the Dinosaur-Killing Asteroid

Saturday, May 26, 2018

An illustration shows a hypothetical surviving bird lineage—small-bodied and ground-dwelling—fleeing a burning forest after the asteroid strike that eliminated nonavian dinosaurs.  ILLUSTRATION BY PHILLIP M. KRZEMINSKI

After the most fatal asteroid struck Chicxulub in Mexico near about sixty-six million years ago ending the dinosaur age, the scientists have been scratching their heads detecting the birds that had overcome the event. A recent study has provided these scientists clues for their unsolved questions. According to the study, very few of the avian creatures survived the event. As the asteroid clash caused forest fires, the tree dependent birds did not survive. The ground-dwelling birds basically got over and the rest of the birds of today evolved from them.

The leader of the research team, Daniel Field of the University of Bath, said in a statement, “The ancestors of modern tree-dwelling birds did not move into the trees until the forests had recovered from the extinction-causing asteroid.”

The forest fire caused by the asteroid event released a lot of soot and ash into the atmosphere thereby clogging it. This did not allow photosynthesis activity of the plants to help them survive or bloom back again. As a result, many trees got extinct and the tree-dwelling birds lost their habitat. The habitat loss is also responsible for the non-survival of the tree-dwelling bird species.

As a part of the study, the scientists analyzed the fossilized remains received after the asteroid event. Researcher Regan Dunn, a paleontologist at the Field Museum in Chicago, said in a statement, “After a disaster like a forest fire or a volcanic eruption, the first plants to come back are the fastest colonizers – especially ferns.”

When the fossilized avian remains from prior to and post of the asteroid event was compared, it was discovered by the researchers that the creatures that survived the event were all ground-dwellers. This was identified by seeing the sturdier and longer legs of the ground-dwelling birds. Field said that all the birds that are found on Earth today have a common ancestor who “was almost certainly a ground-dwelling bird.”

However, the researchers yet feel that this evidence are not enough to draw any conclusion due to the narrow scope of this research. Alan Cooper, a molecular evolutionist, said in a statement, “It’s difficult to conclude all forests disappeared globally based on [just] evidence from northern areas.”

The researchers have also said that the survival of some of the bird species may also involve other factors and the death of forests would be just one among them.  Jingmai O’Connor, a paleontologist at the Institute of Vertebrate Paleontology and Paleoanthropology in China said, “Forest loss was only one of several factors working in combination that determined which bird lineages survived.”

The observations of this research were published in the journal Current Biology.