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Study Shows That The First Tree-Dwelling Birds Went Extinct With Dinosaurs

The asteroid that killed dinosaurs 66 million years ago, also led to the extinction of the first tree-dwelling birds, finds a study.

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Skeleton of a dinosaur, pixabay

The asteroid that killed dinosaurs 66 million years ago, also led to the extinction of the first tree-dwelling birds, finds a study.

The asteroid that crashed to Earth with a force one million times more than the largest atomic bomb decimated the planet’s forests as well as its canopies.

With no more perches, the perching birds went extinct. The ones that are alive today are descendants of a handful of ground-dwelling species, like modern ground birds such as kiwis and emus, the researchers said.

“The temporary elimination of forests in the aftermath of the asteroid impact explains why arboreal birds failed to survive across this extinction event,” said lead author Daniel Field, from the Milner Centre for Evolution at the University of Bath, UK.

“The ancestors of modern arboreal birds did not move into the trees until forests had recovered from the extinction-causing asteroid.

“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,” Field added.

This fossil provides a unique insight into how crocodiles began evolving into dolphin and killer whale-like forms more than 180 million years ago," said Mark Young, of the University of Edinburgh's School of GeoSciences in Britain.
Dinosaur Fossil. pixabay

The study, appearing in the journal Current Biology, determined the destruction of the world’s forests, by looking at microscopic fossils of pollen and spores.

The fossil record immediately after the asteroid hit shows the charcoal remains of burnt trees, and then, tons of fern spores, the researchers said.

“Our study examined the fossil record from New Zealand, Japan, Europe and North America, which showed there was a mass deforestation across the globe at the end of the Cretaceous period,” said Antoine Bercovici, pollen expert at the Smithsonian Institution and the Denver Museum of Nature and Science.

With no more trees, the tree-dwelling birds went extinct. The birds that did manage to survive were ground-dwellers — birds whose fossilised remains show longer, sturdier legs like we see in modern ground birds like kiwis and emus.

Though the dinosaurs and their perching bird neighbours died 66 million years ago, their plight is relevant today, the researchers noted.

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“The end-Cretaceous event is the fifth mass extinction — we’re in the sixth,” Dunn said.

“It’s important for us to understand what happens when you destroy an ecosystem, like with deforestation and climate change — so we can know how our actions will affect what comes after us,” Dunn noted. (IANS)

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World’s Largest Extinction Wiped Out Plants Before Animals, Says New Research

The team studied fossilised pollen, the chemical composition and age of rock, and the layering of sediment on the cliffsides of southeastern Australia. 

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earth, digital
Researchers found high concentrations of nickel in the Sydney Basin's mud-rock - surprising because there are no local sources of the element. Pixabay

The world’s largest extinction wiped out plants before many animal counterparts, says new research.

Roughly 252 million years ago, \nickel byproduct from a volcanic eruption in Siberia drifted to Australia, kicking off the Earth-spanning cataclysm known as the “Great Dying”.

Spewing carbon and methane into the atmosphere for roughly two million years, the eruption led to the extinction of about 96 per cent of oceanic life and 70 per cent of land-based vertebrates.

But the new study by the University of Nebraska-Lincoln researchers suggests that nickel may have driven some Australian plant life to extinction nearly 400,000 years before most marine species perished.

“That’s big news. People have hinted at that, but nobody’s previously pinned it down. Now we have a timeline,” said lead author Christopher Fielding.

Roughly 252 million years ago, nickel byproduct from a volcanic eruption in Siberia drifted to Australia, kicking off the Earth-spanning cataclysm known as the "Great Dying". 
Roughly 252 million years ago, nickel byproduct from a volcanic eruption in Siberia drifted to Australia, kicking off the Earth-spanning cataclysm known as the “Great Dying”.  . (VOA)

The team studied fossilised pollen, the chemical composition and age of rock, and the layering of sediment on the cliffsides of southeastern Australia.

They discovered high concentrations of nickel in the Sydney Basin’s mud-rock – surprising because there are no local sources of the element.

The finding, detailed in the journal Nature Communications, points to the eruption of lava through nickel deposits in Siberia, said Tracy Frank, Professor at the varsity.

That volcanism could have converted the nickel into an aerosol that drifted thousands of miles southward before descending on, and poisoning, much of the plant life there.

Fossils
The team studied fossilised pollen, the chemical composition and age of rock, and the layering of sediment on the cliffsides of southeastern Australia. VOA

Similar spikes in nickel have been recorded in other parts of the world, she explained.

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The phenomenon may also have triggered a series of others: herbivores dying from the lack of plants, carnivores dying from a lack of herbivores, and toxic sediment eventually flushing into seas already reeling from rising carbon dioxide, acidification and temperatures.

Though the time scale and magnitude of the Great Dying exceeded the planet’s current ecological crises, Frank said the emerging similarities – especially the spikes in greenhouse gases and continuous disappearance of species – make it a lesson worth studying. (IANS)