Asteroid that killed the dinosaurs opened the door for humans

A short article in The Times newspaper today says that the dinosaurs were at their peak moment in the history of the planet when this enormous asteroid hit and put them under a dust cloud that shrouded the entire earth resulting in their ultimate extinction.

But the mammals survived because they were more flexible in their eating habits and behaviours. Prof Steve Brusatte of the University of Edinburgh, the lead author in a study, suggested that mammals were “pre-adapted” to this catastrophic disaster.

Asteroid that killed the dinosaurs and opened the door to mammals and the human to dominate
Asteroid that killed the dinosaurs and opened the door to mammals and the human to dominate. Image: Don Davis Via NASA Image and Video Library. Click for a larger version.

This drew my attention to the possibility that humans would not have existed in their present form, in such a dominant form, or at all, but for this 6-mile-wide asteroid which delivered a fatal blow to dinosaurs.

The asteroid hit 66 million years ago. Mammals, as mentioned, and birds and other animals survived. There are 18,000 bird species today. The human dominates the planet and has been described as a ‘disease’ by Sir David Attenborough, the world-renown BBC television presenter and scientist.

An international team of palaeontologists and ecologists, in the study, analysed 1,600 fossil records from North America to build up a picture of how food chains and animals were evolving.

They concluded that just prior to the asteroid hitting that the dinosaurs were dominating every land ecosystem.

They had become well adapted to their habitats and this, though, sowed the seeds of their destruction according to The Times science correspondent in reference to the study.

Dinosaurs could not cope with an asteroid collision whereas mammals could. Apparently, about 400,000 years before the asteroid hit the planet there were massive volcanic eruptions in India. This created rapid global climate change and there were dramatic ecosystem changes which probably weakened the non-avian dinosaurs.

But that massive rock knocked the dinosaurs on the head. They had been on the planet for 150 million years up until that point.

The dinosaur crashed into the Yucatán Peninsula at 45,000 miles an hour. It had the force of over a hundred million atomic bombs.

It is estimated that within a few hours there were huge earthquakes and a 650-foot tsunami which devastated the Caribbean area.

It is believed that most dinosaurs would have died from the heat. About 70% of all wildlife went extinct.

So, what if that asteroid had never hit the planet? It must have been a one in 100 million or more chance for that to happen. The world would have been different according to Sean Gulick, a geologist at the University Of Texas Jackson School of Geosciences.

He said:

“If there hadn’t been this impact, [the dinosaurs] might have just kept on going”. And Dr. Brusatte added that “The dinosaur story is really our story. If dinosaurs didn’t go extinct, mammals probably wouldn’t have remained in the shadows as they have been for over a hundred million years. Humans, then, probably would’ve never been here.”

It is suggested that if the asteroid had hit a different part of the planet, it would have caused less of an extinction event. Other areas would have been less sulphur rich and lower in carbon dioxide and the injected matter (ejecta) would have been less toxic.

The study referred to is published in Science Advances.

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