Research

Modern birds evolved from ground-dwelling ancestor, after asteroid hit

Modern birds evolved from ground-dwelling ancestor, after asteroid hit

The asteroid that led to the mass extinction of the dinosaurs about 65.5 million years ago, was not able to destroy crocodiles, turtles, and certain species of birds. By studying bird fossils from the period prior to the impact and contrasting that with post-impact fossils, the researchers determined that ground-dwelling birds were the only ones who managed to tough it out, and they think they know why.

" To me, it's actually fantastic to see that integrating insights from the bird fossil record and the plant fossil record can enable us to piece together a significant macroevolutionary story that occurred over 66 million years back", Daniel Field, lead research study author and an evolutionary paleontologist at the University of Bath's Milner Centre for Development, wrote in an e-mail. This would've killed tree-dwelling birds and left just ground-dwelling birds.

It has always been debated how many birds-which evolved from dinosaurs-survived the extinction.

'We concluded that the devastation of forests in the aftermath of the asteroid impact explains why tree-dwelling birds failed to survive across this extinction event. "It took a lot longer for some bird species to evolve the shorter legs and grasping feet needed to perch and nest in trees".

If it hadn't struck our planet all those centuries ago, maybe we would have gotten to live out our Flintstones fantasies and would be flying giant birds instead of riding in killer automated cars. Their fossilized remains contained strong legs like modern ground birds such as kiwis and emus.

"This place is known for having a attractive record across the interval that we are looking at - the so called Cretaceous-Paleogene boundary - the mass extinction event following the Chicxulub impact", MacLeod added.

" Today, birds are the most varied and internationally prevalent group of terrestrial vertebrate animals- there are nearly 11,000 living types", Field stated in a declaration.

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Ferns were also the big survivor, as opposed to trees, because their tiny, single-celled spores dispersed quickly. 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.

Tyler Lyson, a paleontologist at the Denver Museum of Nature and Science, helped write that study. Ferns are normally amongst the quickest plants to return after natural catastrophes.

So the length of time would it take the ferns to prosper? This suggests that the wildfires produced by the asteroid, in addition to the resulting climate change-which lasted tens of thousands of years-devastated large plants, like trees, around the world.

The researchers painstakingly searched for them in pounds of rock from El Kef, Tunisia, a site that is famous for having well-preserved rock layers that span the time periods both before and after the asteroid impact.

'The ancestors of modern tree-dwelling birds did not move into the trees until forests had recovered from the extinction-causing asteroid'.

" Human activity is triggering logging on an enormous scale", Field stated. "It's possible that, if this sort of logging continues unabated, it will leave an enduring signature on the advancement of birdlife".