Seeds Saved Bird Ancestors From Dinosaur Extinction

Posted: Apr 22 2016, 6:45am CDT | by , Updated: Apr 23 2016, 10:38pm CDT, in Latest Science News


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Seeds Saved Bird Ancestors From Dinosaur Extinction
A number of bird-like dinosaurs reconstructed in their environment in the Hell Creek Formation at the end of the Cretaceous. Middle ground and background: two different dromaeosaurid species hunting vertebrate prey (a lizard and a toothed bird). Foreground: hypothetical toothless bird closely related to the earliest modern birds. Credit: Danielle Dufault
  • Fossil Record is Proof that Seeds helped Bird Harbingers from Extinction

The fossil record is proof of one thing - which is that seeds helped bird harbingers from undergoing total extinction.

When dinosaurs became extinct, several dinosaurs that resembled birds also went their way into oblivion. Giant species of dinosaurs such as T.Rex and Triceratops simply disappeared.

A few that survived to become the avian species we see today remained an anomaly and a source of confusion and bafflement for scientists.

The meteoric impact that wiped out the dinosaurs and their food supply may have spared the small toothless dinosaurs that resembled birds. They may have in fact thrived on the seeds which were in plentiful supply despite the impact.

The small dinosaurs that were raptors are a poorly understood species. Yet they are the closest you can come to the birds we find today in our midst. The modern crown-group birds survived the extinction. Yet the unanswered question remains why these birds survived whereas the other ones did not.

"The small bird-like dinosaurs in the Cretaceous, the maniraptoran dinosaurs, are not a well-understood group," says first author Derek Larson, a paleontologist at the Philip J. Currie Dinosaur Museum in Alberta and PhD candidate at the University of Toronto.

"They're some of the closest relatives to modern birds, and at the end of the Cretaceous, many went extinct, including the toothed birds--but modern crown-group birds managed to survive the extinction. The question is, why did that difference occur when these groups were so similar?"

The two groups were very similar to each other but their fates diverged radically. The mass extinction during the Cretaceous Era seemed to have affected different dinosaur species in a different manner.

3104 fossils of the teeth of ancient dinosaurs were examined. The shape and size of each tooth was recorded meticulously. Divergence in the structure of the teeth were noted down. It was not that the ecosystem went into a tailspin and so all the species underwent extinction.

Rather what happened was that a flourishing ecosystem was extant and then the meteor hit the earth and caused widespread destruction and devastation from which a few species emerged unscathed.

The raptors which were the ancestors of the birds managed to make it through in the form of the various birds we find today.

The ancestors of today’s birds probably had been toothless seed-eating creatures. While plants and fruits may have been decimated, seeds survived. These seeds thus became the normal nutritional source for these toothless bird-like dinosaurs. That was until other alternatives showed up.

"There were bird-like dinosaurs with teeth up until the end of the Cretaceous, where they all died off very abruptly," says Larson. "Some groups of beaked birds may have been able to survive the extinction event because they were able to eat seeds."

This study was published on April 21 in the journal Current Biology.

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<a href="/latest_stories/all/all/20" rel="author">Sumayah Aamir</a>
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