Image Credit: CC BY 3.0 Nobu Tamura
The asteroid spelled disaster for birds that nested in trees.
According to a new study, only a few select bird species survived the asteroid strike that wiped out the dinosaurs.
When a massive asteroid struck Mexico 66 million years ago, the chaos that ensued was so absolute that it is amazing that anything managed to survive at all.
Alongside the dinosaurs, other victims of this prehistoric apocalypse were some of the earliest bird species – especially those that nested up in the trees.
Intriguingly, it was actually the ground-dwelling birds that somehow managed to hold on.
Now according to a new study, these birds likely managed to survive because they were better able to adapt to the conditions that followed the disaster.
Birds that nested in trees, by contrast, were wiped out because the trees themselves disappeared.
“Looking at the fossil record, at plants and birds, there are multiple lines of evidence suggesting that the forest canopies collapsed,” said Regan Dunn from the Field Museum in Chicago.
“Perching birds went extinct because there were no more perches.”
The few ground-dwelling species that did survive were the ancestors of all of today’s modern birds.
“Today, birds are the most diverse and globally widespread group of terrestrial vertebrate animals – there are nearly 11,000 living species,” said study co-author Daniel Field from the University of Bath.
“Only a handful of ancestral bird lineages succeeded in surviving the mass extinction event 66 million years ago, and all of today’s amazing living bird diversity can be traced to these ancient survivors.”