Feeds

Asteroid's DINO KILLING SPREE just bad luck – boffins

Sauricide WASN'T inevitable, reckon scientists

Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops

The dinosaurs would have survived the asteroid that smashed into Earth and wiped them all out had it not been for the rather poor – from their point of view – timing with which it arrived.

The demise of these scaly – or indeed, even feathery – overlords may not have happened if the space rock hit a few million years later or earlier, boffins have suggested.

Academics at the University of Edinburgh have analysed fossil records and used new analytical tools to examine the condition of Planet Earth back in the dying days of the reptile rulers' reign.

They claimed that the 10km-wide Goldilocks asteroid hit Mexico at exactly the right time 66 million years ago, when Earth was experiencing a period of intense volcanic activity, shifting sea levels and fluctuating temperatures.

This combination of threats was enough to destroy the dinos' food chain by wiping out plant-eating species which served as meals to nastier, carnivorous beasts like the Tyrannosaurus Rex.

When it hit, the asteroid would have caused all manner of apocalyptic events such as "tsunamis, earthquakes, wildfires, sudden temperature swings and other environmental changes", say the boffins. The food chain would have been pulled apart bit by bit, with the dinosaurs wiped out "once species after another".

The Edinburgh boffins claimed that if the dino-busting death rock had hit a few million years earlier or later, the dino kings might have survived. That might sound like a long time, but it's barely a few minutes in evolutionary terms.

In the period before the strike, dinosaurs were more diverse and the food chains were more robust, the researchers found, whereas if they had survived for a few million years more, more species would have evolved, perhaps making them more resilient to the conditions after the impact.

Dr Steve Brusatte of the University of Edinburgh's School of GeoSciences said: "The dinosaurs were victims of colossal bad luck. Not only did a giant asteroid strike, but it happened at the worst possible time, when their ecosystems were vulnerable. Our new findings help clarify one of the enduring mysteries of science."

The boffins' claims were made after an international team of palaeontologists led by the University of Edinburgh studied an updated catalogue of dinosaur fossils, most of which were gathered in North America. These were then used to create a picture of how dinosaurs changed in the years leading up to their demise.

Dr Richard Butler, of the School of Geography, Earth and Environmental Sciences at the University of Birmingham, said: "There has long been intense scientific debate about the cause of the dinosaur extinction. Although our research suggests that dinosaur communities were particularly vulnerable at the time the asteroid hit, there is nothing to suggest that dinosaurs were doomed to extinction. Without that asteroid, the dinosaurs would probably still be here, and we very probably would not."

A study summing up the research has been published in Biological Reviews. ®

Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops

More from The Register

next story
Rosetta probot drilling DENIED: Philae has its 'LEG in the AIR'
NOT best position for scientific fulfillment
HUMAN DNA 'will be FOUND ON MOON' – rocking boffin Brian Cox
Crowdfund plan to stimulate Blighty's space programme
LIFE, JIM? Comet probot lander found 'ORGANICS' on far-off iceball
That's it for God, then – if Comet 67P has got complex molecules
'Yes, yes... YES!' Philae lands on COMET 67P
Plucky probot aces landing on high-speed space rock - emotional scenes in Darmstadt
THERE it is! Philae comet lander FOUND in EXISTING Rosetta PICS
Crumb? Pixel? ALIEN? Better, it's a comet-catcher!
SEX BEAST SEALS may be egging each other on to ATTACK PENGUINS
Boffin: 'I think the behaviour is increasing in frequency'
Post-pub nosh neckfiller: The MIGHTY Scotch egg
Off to the boozer? This delicacy might help mitigate the effects
I'M SO SORRY, sobs Rosetta Brit boffin in 'sexist' sexy shirt storm
'He is just being himself' says proud mum of larger-than-life physicist
prev story

Whitepapers

Choosing cloud Backup services
Demystify how you can address your data protection needs in your small- to medium-sized business and select the best online backup service to meet your needs.
A strategic approach to identity relationship management
ForgeRock commissioned Forrester to evaluate companies’ IAM practices and requirements when it comes to customer-facing scenarios versus employee-facing ones.
High Performance for All
While HPC is not new, it has traditionally been seen as a specialist area – is it now geared up to meet more mainstream requirements?
Mitigating web security risk with SSL certificates
Web-based systems are essential tools for running business processes and delivering services to customers.
Intelligent flash storage arrays
Tegile Intelligent Storage Arrays with IntelliFlash helps IT boost storage utilization and effciency while delivering unmatched storage savings and performance.