If the meteor that wiped out the dinosaurs had hit just a few million years earlier or later, dinosaurs may not have become an extinct curiosity. Credit: Getty Images
It turns out there is a good and a bad time for the planet to be hit by a meteor, and dinosaurs were just unlucky.
A team of paleontologists discovered that had the massive 6-mile-wide meteor struck the Earth just a few million years earlier or later, dinosaurs would have very likely survived.
"The dinosaurs were victims of colossal bad luck. Not only did a giant asteroid strike, but it happened at the worst possible time,” said Dr. Steve Brusatte of the University of Edinburgh's School of GeoSciences in a news release.
The team made the discovery while studying North American fossils, which revealed that the planet’s ecosystems were undergoing drastic changes, including heavy volcanic activity, significant temperature fluctuations and changing sea levels. This caused imbalances in the dinosaurs’ food chain.
The asteroid, which hit what is present-day Mexico about 66 million years ago, came during this time of vulnerability for the dinosaurs. The impact would have further changed the environment, causing tsunamis, earthquakes, wildfires and other events. The already weakened food chain collapsed as species died off one by one.
Only dinosaurs that could fly were spared, going on to evolve into modern birds.