Flowering plants survived the catastrophe that killed the dinosaurs without major losses. The latest research shows that these creatures cleverly exploited the extinction of 75% of species living on Earth to take control of abandoned habitats. Thanks to this, they gain an advantage over all other plants.
Throughout Earth’s history, there have been many mass extinctions – catastrophic events that resulted in the loss of many species in a relatively short period of time. The most famous of them occurred 66 million years ago as a result of an asteroid collision. The Cretaceous extinction wiped out at least 75% of all species on Earth, ending the Age of Dinosaurs. As a study published in the journal Biology Letters showed, it did not bring devastation to all groups of organisms.
They survived and had the upper hand
Researchers from Mexico and the United Kingdom analyzed how the Great Cretaceous extinction event affected the most widespread branch of plants on Earth – the angiosperms. Of the approximately 400,000 known species, about 300,000 belong to this group. Similar studies have not been conducted yet due to its high degree of complexity. Plants do not have skeletons, which means fossils are relatively rare compared to animals.
Instead, scientists analyzed the evolution of mutations in the DNA sequences of 73,000 species currently on Earth, in an attempt to trace when their ancestors first appeared. Using statistical models, they were able to estimate the rate of evolution and extinction of entire evolutionary lines. As the analysis showed, the vast majority of angiosperm species existing today existed before the Cretaceous extinction. Ancestors of plants such as orchids, magnolias and mints shared the land with dinosaurs.
“After the extinction of most species on Earth, angiosperms took over the plant world,” said Jamie Thompson from the University of Bath, co-author of the study. Now almost all life on Earth depends ecologically on flowering plants.
What is the secret of the evolutionary success of angiosperms? As Santiago Ramírez Barahona of the National University of Mexico, co-author of the analysis, explained, these plants have an extraordinary ability to adapt: they use different mechanisms for seed dispersal and pollination, some have completely duplicated their genomes, and others have evolved entirely new ways of photosynthesis.
This “flower power” makes them true champions of survival in nature, the scientist explained.
University of Bath, Encyclopedia Britannica
Main image source: Stock struggle
Echo Richards embodies a personality that is a delightful contradiction: a humble musicaholic who never brags about her expansive knowledge of both classic and contemporary tunes. Infuriatingly modest, one would never know from a mere conversation how deeply entrenched she is in the world of music. This passion seamlessly translates into her problem-solving skills, with Echo often drawing inspiration from melodies and rhythms. A voracious reader, she dives deep into literature, using stories to influence her own hardcore writing. Her spirited advocacy for alcohol isn’t about mere indulgence, but about celebrating life’s poignant moments.