September 15, 2014
Dinosaurs extinct because of 'colossal bad luck'
Dinosaurs were wiped out by an asteroid impact when they were at their most vulnerable, according to a new study. Its author, Dr. Steve Brusatte said they might have survived if the asteroid had hit the Earth a few million years later or earlier and called it "colossal bad luck".
The assessment of Edinburgh University, published in the journal Biological Reviews says that the asteroid hit the Earth at a time when sea level rises and volcanic activity had made many species more susceptible to extinction.
"It was a perfect storm of events that occurred when dinosaurs were at their most vulnerable," Brusatte said.
"If they had a few million years more to recover their diversity they would have had a better chance of surviving the asteroid impact. Dinosaurs had been around for 160 million years, they had plenty of dips and troughs in their diversity but they always recovered,” he explained.
A team of 11 experts from the UK, US and Canada worked on the study, looking at the environmental factors prevalent at the time -66 million years ago- and found that while most dinosaur species were prospering, the larger plant-eating dinosaurs were in decline.
"The decline made those ecosystems at the very end of the cretaceous [period], when the asteroid hit, considerably more vulnerable to collapse than those ecosystems that existed even a few million years before," said Brusatte.