Why did the dinosaurs die?


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Why did the dinosaurs die? – Whitaker, 4 years old.

This is a great and complicated question!

We know that dinosaurs dominated the Earth for about 180 million years. Then, about 66 million years ago, a huge rock from outer space (called an asteroid) collided with Earth.

He fell near Mexico. It shook the floor. He made great waves in the sea.
Any animals and plants that were nearby would have been crushed or washed away!

The asteroid made a lot of dust, dirt and rocks to fly in the air. All that dust and grime covered the planet and darkened the sky. There were many forest fires as well.

Before the asteroid hit Earth, there were many volcanoes erupting in what we now call India. They made smoke and ashes and gases filled the air. We are not sure if the asteroid reaching Earth has caused more volcanoes to erupt. Maybe it was just a very bad timing.

From cold to hot

It was so dusty and dark that the heat of the sun did not reach the ground.
This made the Earth very cold.

But after the dust subsided and the sun left, the Earth got really hot. Marine creatures, plants, and land animals did not like that much. The plants probably had difficulty growing. The animals that fed on plants were left without plants to eat, and then the animals that ate other animals also ran out of food. So it was very difficult for the dinosaurs to survive.

But it is still very difficult to know exactly why the dinosaurs died. Dinosaur scientists (paleontologists) still wonder if it was because of the asteroid, or the volcanoes, or both, asteroids and volcanoes. Did the animals get too cold or too hot? Did they run out of food?

We may not know for sure, but we will always seek answers!

Here is a life-size skeleton of Muttaburrasaurus at the Queensland Museum. The Muttaburrasaurus was a large dinosaur plant eater who lived in eastern Australia.

See More Information:
Curious Children: How many dinosaurs in total lived on Earth during all periods?

Who was extinguished and who was not?

Most of the dinosaurs died. We call this "extinct." An animal is extinct when it no longer exists anywhere in the world.

It was not just dinosaurs that were extinct 66 million years ago. Among others that were extinct were: flying reptiles called pterosaurs, huge reptiles that swam in the ocean called plesiosaurs and pliosaurs, creatures with coiled spiral shells called ammonites and many other plants and animals.

Here is an artist's impression of a pterosaur.
Great reptiles called plesiosaurs have already swam in the ocean.

But others survived. Different types of insects, lizards, crocodiles, mammals, birds, sharks, fish, crabs, snails, flowers, ferns and trees managed to survive.

As? We do not really know.

It may be because the animals were small and did not need much food. Maybe it was because they could eat crunchy seeds, dead plants left behind, or mushrooms growing on dead plants, or small remnants of old, dry meat. Maybe because they could bury themselves on the floor to warm themselves up. Maybe it was because they could swim away to keep themselves safe. And maybe some of those dry, crunchy seeds could turn into plants after they've been buried for a long time.

But we know they survived.

Wool Mammoths once roamed the Earth.

These animals and plants have found new homes. And as the plants grew bigger and stronger, the animals could grow even more. They could take the place of the great dinosaurs who had died. Great mammoths, giant kangaroos, and whales now roamed the land and sea. New types of plants grew, like grass. And a long time later, humans evolved – it's us!

Now mammals dominate the earth.

Not all dinosaurs died

Did you know that not all dinosaurs were extinct 66 million years ago? They are not the kind of dinosaur you might be thinking, like tyrannosaurusor Brachiosaurusor Muttaburrasaurus. The dinosaurs that survived were … birds!

That's right! All birds are actually dinosaurs.

Old birds lived alongside other dinosaurs. They survived the asteroid and volcanoes. And now the birds live next to us today.

See More Information:
Curious children: are mermaids real?

I think it's sad that all other dinosaurs have been extinct for a long time. But we can remember them visiting museums, observing fossils, reading books about them or watching birds flying across the sky.

But if it were not for all the other long extinct dinosaurs, cute little mammals would not have room to grow and evolve. And there would be no humans.

Birds of today have evolved from prehistoric times. Birds survived the asteroid that led to the extinction of dinosaurs.

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