A new study shows that ancient mammals adapted better than dinosaurs, helping them survive the catastrophe and thrive in its aftermath.
This conclusion was reached after researchers mapped the complex interactions between a large number of ancient animals and their ecosystems before and after the asteroid hit Earth.
Reported from Live Science, Thursday (8/12/2022) modeling combines data from fossils collected in western North America whose ages cross the boundary between the late Cretaceous (145 million to 66 million years ago) and early Paleogene (66 million to 23 million years ago) .
These 1600 fossil data represent more than 470 animal genera, including mammals, fish, crocodiles, birds and nonavian dinosaurs.
Read also: Early Mammals were Small and Short-lived
“From these models, we were able to determine that freshwater organisms and small terrestrial organisms including mammals were more resilient and better prepared to face extinction than non-avian dinosaurs,” said Thomas Cullen, of Carleton University in Ottawa who was not involved in the study. ancient mammal adaptations which is not destroyed by asteroids.
Moreover, ancient mammals even diversified before the asteroid strike occurred.
This evolution resulted in mammals that could eat a variety of foods, live in a wide range of temperatures and weather conditions, and produce offspring quickly enough to recover from sudden population crashes.
Scientists previously thought that the explosion in mammalian evolution as a result of the death of the dinosaurs would eventually leave a gap in the ecosystem that could be filled by them.
But the new study points to mounting evidence that ancient mammals were already expanding into new niches before the asteroid impact.
According to Alfio Alessandro Chiarenza, a researcher from the University of Vigo in Spain, the US environment is similar to a swamp. However, the overall climate gradually cooled toward the end of the Cretaceous.
Despite the cooling, the nonavian dinosaurs didn’t really adapt. Instead they stick to the same temperature ranges, weather conditions, and diets to which they have adapted. Thus their ecological role remains largely stable.
Over the same period, mammals jumped from one climatic niche to another and adopted a wider range of habitats and diets.
At first this instability likely caused mammal populations to crash and recover with little climate change.
However, when an asteroid hit Earth and made the planet suddenly dark and cold, mammals had the flexibility to adapt.
“That ends up being a great trait when things change radically due to an asteroid impact,” said Chiarenza.
Furthermore, the modeling approach used in the research was originally developed to study modern ecosystems.
However, the model ultimately helps explain why our mammalian ancestors fared so well during the winter after the asteroid strike.
“I was amazed not only how they managed to thrive in an ecosystem dominated by highly complex (and possibly dangerous) dinosaurs, but also how quickly our ancestors moved into the void after the asteroid hit,” said Jorge García-Girón, researcher at the University of Leon. in Spain.
An adaptation study of this ancient mammal that eventually survived the asteroid impact that wiped out the dinosaurs has been published in the journal Science Advances.
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