Dinosaurs would have kept right on living, had an asteroid not wiped them out. That’s according to new research from the University of Bath and London’s Natural History Museum.
While it’s recently been en vogue to claim that dinosaurs were seeing their time of planet-wide domination come to an end even before a massive impact hurried them off the Earth, this new study claims that dinosaurs would have lived on.
The theory this study refutes claims that dinosaur species diversity was dwindling, a sign that the entire branch of the animal kingdom was winding down while avians and mammals were on the rise.
“What we found is that the dinosaurs were still dominant, they were still widespread and still doing really well,” explained lead author Joe Bonsor. “If the asteroid impact had never happened then they might not have died out and they would have continued after the Cretaceous.’
Bonsor and his fellow researchers believe that the prior theory is based on gaps in the fossil record and not hard evidence. Dinosaurs were an incredibly diverse group of animals that lived for hundreds of millions of years. While many of them died in that time, most of their remains were not fossilized. Bonsor thinks that the theory of diversity decline is based on lack of fossils and not proof.
“The main point of what we are saying is that we don’t really have enough data to know either way what would have happened to the dinosaurs,” Bonsor explained. “Generally in the fossil record there is a bias towards a lack of data, and to interpret those gaps in the fossil record as an artificial decline in diversification rates isn’t what we should be doing.Instead we’ve shown that there is no strong evidence for them dying out, and that the only way to know for sure is to fill in the gaps in the fossil record.”
The study used a massive amount of data from different dinosaur family trees, and analyzed them using statistical modeling. Their findings, that dinos weren’t working their way out the door, were supported by other paleontologists not involved with the study.
Imperial College London paleontologist Alfio Alessandro Chiarenza summed up his support for the new theory rather poetically in a chat with CNN.
“To paraphrase TS Eliot,” Chiarenza said, “This is the way dinosaurs ended, not with a whimper but with a bang.”