The Atmosphere is Full of Carbon Because of the Asteroid Impact

Study Birds had to relearn flight after meteor wiped out dinosaurs

On a very bad day 66 million years ago, a mountain-sized object from space slammed into Earth, initiating a cascade of calamities that eradicated three-fourths of the species on the planet, including the non-avian dinosaurs.

A birdwatcher straining to see a tiny tuft of feathers hopping in the treetops may find it hard to believe the bird's ancient ancestors lived on the ground.

" To me, it's actually wonderful 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. In the centuries following the impact, ferns dominated North America, and tree-dwelling bird species simply couldn't adjust in time.

The researchers found that once the forests had recovered, birds began to adapt to living in trees, acquiring shorter legs than their ground-dwelling ancestors and various specialisations for perching on branches. It's most likely that smaller sized ground-dwelling birds experienced a devastating loss.

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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. This was identified by seeing the sturdier and longer legs of the ground-dwelling birds.

An artist's rendering from 1994, illustrating the Chicxulub asteroid impact that killed off most of the dinosaurs about 66 million years ago.

" 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.

"The end-Cretaceous event is the fifth mass extinction - we're in the sixth", said Dunn. That's because ferns don't sprout from seeds, but from spores, which are much smaller-just a single cell.

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So how long would it take the ferns to thrive? "To date, there's really been no good empirical estimates on what temperature is doing following the impact, in terms of hundreds of thousands of years", says Page Quinton, a geologist at the State University of NY at Potsdam.

The researchers have discovered that the world's forests were also completely destroyed, which caused the extinction of tree-dwelling birds. They can colonize a location rapidly, however it still requires time.

"Human activity is causing deforestation on a massive scale", Field said.

"The authors have done a great job at presenting a very compelling argument about the role of globally disappearing forests in the evolution of modern birds", says Luis Chiappe, an expert on early birds and director of the Dinosaur Institute at the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County, California.

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"If I were to draw a line under the lessons of this study for the modern era, it would be to contemplate the idea that what we are doing in our lifetimes will affect the Earth for the next 100,000 years, which is pretty daunting", MacLeod added.

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