Toxic Flowers Killed Dinosaurs Long Before The Asteroid Strike

Posted: Apr 7 2018, 1:34am CDT | by , Updated: Apr 7 2018, 5:18am CDT, in Latest Science News


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Toxic Flowers Killed Dinosaurs Long Before the Asteroid Strike
Credit: Mark Garlick, via Science Source

New theory suggests that dinosaurs were already drastically decreasing in population when the asteroid hit Earth

It is widely believed that a massive asteroid hit the Earth 66 million years ago and wiped out most of the planet's species alongside dinosaurs. But a new research suggests otherwise and reveals that dinosaurs were in deep trouble long before the asteroid struck the Earth. Dinosaurs were already decreasing in population due to the emergence of toxic plants combined with dinosaurs’ inability to identify them.

Apparently, dinosaurs have not developed conditioned taste aversion or the ability to avoid a certain food that makes them ill. Taste aversion is a defense mechanism seen in many species and is learned after eating potentially harmful or poisonous things.

“A reason why most attempts to eliminate rats have not been successful is that they, like many other species, have evolved to cope with plant toxicity," explained evolutionary psychologist Gordon Gallup from University at Albany. "When rats encounter a new food, they typically sample only a small amount; and if they get sick, they show a remarkable ability to avoid that food again because they associate the taste and smell of it with the negative reaction."

Researchers say that flowering plants, called angiosperms, were flourishing in the Cretaceous period and some of the plants were no doubt poisonous to dinosaurs. But dinosaurs continued eating them despite gastrointestinal distress.

Angiosperms first appeared in the fossil record well before the asteroid impact and right before the dinosaurs began to die, suggesting a clear link between plant’s appearance and the gradual disappearance of dinosaurs.

The researcher also examined birds and crocodilians (considered to be descended from dinosaurs) to lend support to their idea. They found that the birds can develop aversions to the visual features of whatever made them sick. But a previous study suggests that crocodilians did not develop learned taste aversion when they were fed different types of meat, some slightly toxic.

“Though the asteroid certainly played a factor, the psychological deficit which rendered dinosaurs incapable of learning to refrain from eating certain plants had already placed a severe strain on the species," said Gallup. "The prevailing view of dinosaur extinction based on the asteroid impact implies that the disappearance of dinosaurs should have been sudden and the effects should have been widespread, but the evidence clearly shows just the opposite: Dinosaurs began to disappear long before the asteroid impact and continued to gradually disappear for millions of years afterward."

The research details can be found in the paper titled "The demise of dinosaurs and learned taste aversions: The biotic revenge hypothesis."

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<a href="/latest_stories/all/all/47" rel="author">Hira Bashir</a>
The latest discoveries in science are the passion of Hira Bashir (). With years of experience, she is able to spot the most interesting new achievements of scientists around the world and cover them in easy to understand reporting.




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