With dinosaurs out of the way, mammals had a chance to thrive | Science News

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With dinosaurs out of the way, mammals had a chance to thrive

After the extinction event, a new crowd of animals had room to explore a reshaped world

By
2:30pm, January 25, 2017
mammal survivors

SURVIVAL OF THE SMALLEST  After a giant space rock hit the Earth 66 million years ago, life was no picnic. But some species managed to survive.

For dinosaurs, the end of the world began in fire.

The space rock that stamped a Vermont-sized crater into the Earth 66 million years ago packed a powerful punch. Any animal living within about a thousand miles of the impact zone was probably vaporized, says paleontologist Stephen Brusatte of the University of Edinburgh in Scotland.

“Everything would have been toast.”

But outside of the impact zone, amid the smoking ruins of the battered planet, some survivors emerged.

Life there was no picnic. Wave after wave of life-threatening disasters pummeled the animals that remained, says paleontologist Nicholas Longrich of the University of Bath in England. Earthquakes. Wildfires. Volcanoes. Acid rain. Dust and gunk in the air, blotting out the sun. “It’s this series of biblical plagues,” Longrich says.

With little light, much plant life perished, and entire food webs collapsed. Life would have been like an ancient Hunger Games

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