BEACON TRANSCRIPT – A team of scientists has found that the ancestors of birds managed to survive the devastating collision that made dinosaurs go extinct because they were eating seeds. The asteroid that hit our planet 66 million years in the past was the size of the huge Mount Everest, but the bird-like dinosaur species managed to survive thanks to the tiny food they preferred.
The species the researchers are referring to is a theropod dinosaur class, covered in feathers. So how could they have been saved by seeds? Well, this was the most abundant source of food back in the time. Additionally, they were also extremely resistant to the destruction that was taking place all around, and most plants did not survive the impact, not to mention the following climate change. The team of scientists led by Derek Larson managed to discover that the seeds were safely hidden in the soil, which made them viable for even fifty years.
The birds living in our times appear to have evolved from the maniraptoran lineage of dinosaurs. These were small-sized dinosaurs belonging to the theropod class, equipped with teeth to support their diet. However, their teeth could have given them a very hard time to munch on seeds. As a result, the ones who were toothless or had beaks gained the upper hand after the disastrous event.
Thomas Williamson, who was not involved in the research, has stated that we have little knowledge on the theropods that lived near the end of the Cretaceous period. In order to fill this evolutionary gap, Larson’s team had to analyze the maniraptoran dinosaurs that lived at that time, thus working backward in time.
To this purpose, they took a close look at over three thousand fossilized teeth from four families of such dinosaurs, thus covering more than eighteen million years. By also analyzing the diets of modern birds, the researchers arrived at the conclusion that the last ancestor between the maniraptoran dinosaurs and the modern birds must have had beaks and eaten seeds.
Even though bird-like dinosaurs did live until the late Cretaceous period, they, unfortunately, went extinct after the asteroid hit Earth. Some of the few survivors were the toothless, beaked dinosaurs, adapted to eat the most bountiful and resistant type of food: seeds.
The results of the study were published in the Current Biology journal.
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