Birds had to develop flight a second time

The dinosaurs weren’t the only ones affected by the meteor…

66 million years ago, a meteor plummeted to Earth and with an impact a million times greater than a large atomic bomb. Most of us know that it wiped out the dinosaurs, but scientists have now discovered it was fatal for another group of animals – the flying birds.

 

As the meteor crossed into the earth’s atmosphere and sped towards the ground, burning hot debris rained down from the sky. Trees caught fire; fossil remains suggest that forest canopies the world over burned and collapsed.

 

With the trees toppled and charred there weren’t many perches left, so flying birds struggled to survive. Eventually tree-dwelling species died out, leaving just the ground-dwelling flightless birds.

 

The forests slowly recovered over several hundred or thousand years. Over time flight evolved again, and the emu-like survivors of the meteor strike evolved and diversified to eventually produce the thousands of bird species around today.

 

The researchers who have published the paper on these new findings believe their discovery in an important insight into what happens when there is mass destruction of habitat. The meteor brought with it the fifth mass extinction in the planet’s history and we’re now in the sixth, so they’re trying to understand how the actions of modern humans could affect the diversity of life on Earth.

 

Image: Tomasz Baranowski/flickr