Paleontologists Weigh In On The Dinosaur Population, Extinction In Europe

It is a widely accepted theory that the extinction of the dinosaurs (also known as the Cretaceous-Paleogene extinction) was caused by an asteroid impact that happened 66 million years. However, this extinction theory is largely based only on late Cretaceous North American fossil findings. This lack of scope of evidence has raised some speculations that the asteroid impact has been just a local extinction event as opposed to a global one.

A new study shows that dinosaurs were also abundant in Europe until 66 million years ago, around the same time of the asteroid impact.

This new study combines the considerable amount of research data collected on late Cretaceous dinosaur fossil findings commonly found in France, Romania, Spain, and other European countries over the last 20 years.

The new study reviews the fossil records of late Cretaceous dinosaurs and other land living vertebrates from Europe, and the most recent survey of how these animals were changing right up to the point of the asteroid impact. The study is available on ZooKeys, an open access journal.

It has been determined by a team of researchers that until very late into the Cretaceous period, right before the asteroid hit the earth, dinosaurs remained abundant and diverse in Europe. The team of researchers is led by Zoltán Csiki-Sava from the Faculty of Geology and Geophysics of the University of Bucharest.

Both carnivorous and herbivorous dinosaurs are not only present but seemingly abundant in Europe during the last hundred thousand years before the asteroid hit the earth. This is based on late Cretaceous dinosaur fossils found in the Pyrenees of Spain and France, which is the best place in Europe for finding latest Cretaceous dinosaur fossils.

“For a long time, Europe was overshadowed by other continents when the understanding of the nature, composition and evolution of latest Cretaceous continental ecosystems was concerned. The last 25 years witnessed a huge effort across all Europe to improve our knowledge, and now we are on the brink of fathoming the significance of these new discoveries, and of the strange and new story they tell about life at the end of the Dinosaur Era,” Dr. Csiki-Sava said.

Dr. Steve Brusatte from the University of Edinburgh’s School of GeoSciences (UK), and an author on the report, adds, “Everyone knows that an asteroid hit 66 million years ago and dinosaurs disappeared, but this story is mostly based on fossils from one part of the world, North America. We now know that European dinosaurs were thriving up to the asteroid impact, just like in North America. This is strong evidence that the asteroid really did kill off dinosaurs in their prime, all over the world at once.”

[Image from Mike Shaver]