A group of scientists has recently discovered a set of fossils that shed light at the time right after the big extinction event took place 66 million years ago. The new research, which was published on Thursday in the journal Science, studies the fossils collected from a site called Corral Bluffs located in Colorado.
The research team was able to study a large number of fossils excavated from the site which has been frequented by paleontologists and excavators from the early 20th century. The new discovery enlightens the evolutionary period stretching over one million years after the major extinction event that killed close to three-fourth of the entire earth’s population. The research team led by Tyler Lyson of the Denver Museum of Nature and Science studied some hard stone-like objects called concretions which form around bones.
Lyson and his team gathered a large number of such rocks that contained preserved mammal skulls within them. The new set of fossils included more than one thousand remains of vertebrates, about 233 fossilized plants and spores and a large number of remains of other organisms. The new study points to how some of the mammal species were able to fill the gap left by the organisms that perished in the great extinction event by continuous evolutionary changes based on their diet which was largely dependent on the plants that evolved along with them.
The study authors explained that the mammals of that period, which were no bigger than some of the present-day rodents, quickly grew in numbers and soon doubled their population by 100,000 years after the event. The research also shows the role of evolution in plants which triggered a subsequent growth in the size of the mammals. The mammals grew from an average weight of eight kilograms to species weighing about 25 kilograms after 300,000 years of the asteroid impact. The researchers found that close to 700,000 years after the mass extinction, these organisms had evolved into the species weighing up to 50 kilograms, similar to modern-day wolves.
Caroline Kenny is the senior news reporter for News Fior She covers Science. Caroline graduated from the Honors College at the College of Charleston with bachelor’s degrees in communication and political science. She worked for Science Mag. She was a digital producer for Science Mag. She is a native of Long Island, New York.