As children, we’ve been taught that the massive asteroid that hit the Earth some 66 million years ago wiped out all dinosaurs in the face of the planet.
But a team of researchers from the University of Reading claim that 50 million years before the 10 km-wide asteroid hit the Earth, climate change took a toll on the population of dinosaurs across the world.
Although the asteroid was to blame for completely obliterating the dinosaur population when it hit the Earth 66 million years ago, researchers have confirmed based on paleontological data that climate change, particularly the cooling of global temperature on Earth, played a vital role in decreasing their population.
The question as to what exactly causes the extinction of dinosaurs remains a subject of heated debate, according to the research abstract published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America (PNAS).
To understand the other factors that contributed to the decline or extinction of dinosaurs, the research team, headed by University of Reading Paleontologist Dr. Manabu Sakamoto, used statistical analysis of the unearthed data.
“We find overwhelming support for a long-term decline across all dinosaurs and within all three major dinosaur groups. Our results highlight that dinosaurs showed a marked reduction in their ability to replace extinct species with new ones, making them vulnerable to extinction and unable to respond quickly to and recover from the final catastrophic event 66 million years ago,” the research abstract reads.
In a report from the BBC, study co-author Mike Benton of Bristol University told BBC News that during the 50 million population decline among dinosaurs, the weather was rapidly changing, and global temperature was starting to get colder.
“World climates were getting cooler all the time. Dinosaurs rely on quite warm climates and mammals are better adapted to the cold. So there might have been a switch over in any case without the asteroid impact,” Benton was quoted as saying by BBC News.