Why were birds the only di­nosaurs to sur­vive the mass ex­tinc­tion?

BBC Earth (Asia) - - Q&a -

The as­ter­oid that caused the ex­tinc­tion event at the end of the Cre­ta­ceous pe­riod struck Earth with 60,000 times the en­ergy of the world’s en­tire nu­clear ar­se­nal. The at­mos­phere would have glowed red hot for sev­eral hours and all the large di­nosaurs that couldn’t bur­row un­der­ground or hide un­der­wa­ter were im­me­di­ately roasted.

When the smaller species came out of hid­ing they found a charred land­scape and the air so thick with soot and sul­phur diox­ide clouds that sun­light was al­most com­pletely blocked out for the next year. It was too dark for pho­to­syn­the­sis, so the her­bi­vores died, then the car­ni­vores. Birds are de­scended from the mani­rap­toran di­nosaurs but they had two im­por­tant adap­ta­tions that helped them sur­vive. First, they had beaks in­stead of teeth, which al­lowed them to crack open seeds and nuts buried in the top­soil. Sec­ond, their rel­a­tively large skull ca­pac­ity sug­gests that they were more in­tel­li­gent than the other rep­tiles. They may have lived in more com­plex so­cial groups that could co­op­er­ate and adapt to find new food sources in the rad­i­cally dif­fer­ent post-apoc­a­lyp­tic land­scape. This al­lowed them to even­tu­ally out­com­pete any other species of small di­nosaur that might have sur­vived the ini­tial im­pact LV

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