Friday, September 05, 2008

Asteroids or insects? Dino extinction theory takes a twist

If you ask anybody (including the geniuses at Poun360 a few hours ago) what killed the dinosaurs, chances are, they'd say it was an asteroid. And there's plenty of science to back them up. It starts with a collision in the Asteroid Belt sending one monster rock towards the Earth, the asteroid slams into the Yucatan peninsula setting of a global firesorm and that's pretty much it.

But according to the fossil record, dinosaurs actually died out over the course of a period of great environmental change (known as the
K-T Boundary), which lasted hundreds of thousands of years.

While a massive asteroid impact may have kicked off the dinosaur's demise by weakening their populations, other factors, such as the rise of insects may have ultimately finished them off. This according to an Oregon State University paper reported by ScienceDaily (
via Slashdot).

As dinosaurs were dying out, biting insects (like ticks and biting flies) were getting pretty nasty. And according to specimens preserved in amber, the insects were carrying deadly diseases (like malaria and leishmania). "During the late Cretaceous Period, the associations between insects, microbes and disease transmission were just emerging," one of the Oregon State paper's authors told ScienceDaily.

The rise of insects would have also spurred the spread of flowering plants. Such plants would have decimated gymnosperms (like ferns and cycads), dinosaur's "traditional food items."

Additionally, insects may have spread plant diseases affecting dinosaur's remaining food supply, and insects would have also been "major competitors" for plant food.

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I started pound360 to channel my obsession with vitamins, running and the five senses. Eventually, I got bored focusing on all that stuff, so I came back from a one month hiatus in May of 2007 (one year after launching Pound360) and broadened my mumblings here to include all science.