This is probably the time when the subject of climate change has been discussed the most. However, this doesn’t mean that climate change is a new phenomenon. In fact, global warming has been happening for a very long time, starting with the age of dinosaurs.
According to the latest research led by a team of paleontologists from the University of Oxford, climate change led to the extinction of ichthyosaurs, ocean-dwelling reptiles that lived over 150 million years ago.
These dolphin-like dinosaurs were very well adapted to marine life, which is why scientists have taken so long to understand what caused their disappearance. It was believed that at some point food was running scarce, and the number of marine predators increased which led to the odds not being in the ichthyosaur’s favor.
To figure out how these animals went extinct, researchers analyzed teeth fossils from museums as well as some recently discovered fossils in Russia. The fossil analysis was also correlated with geological data on sea surface temperatures. It turned out that the dolphin-like creature was a very diverse species, which made its extinction even more curious.
About 100 million to 94 million years ago, in the Cretaceous period took place something called the Cenomanian stage. This was a stage in which sea levels and sea temperatures fluctuated dramatically.
Because of these fluctuations, marine ecosystems were highly affected. The fluctuations also coincided with intense volcanism, ice-free poles, and fast-moving continents.
The ichthyosaurs failed to adapt to the changing environment and evolve into a new species, a fact which led to their extinction. Their food was no longer at hand, and their diet had to change which meant they were also changing travel routes, and it became more difficult to find safe places for birthing.
While the theory suggested by the new study might be true, it is restricted to a small area. Other scientists believe that to be able to say exactly why ichthyosaurs went extinct the research has to be a lot more extensive and cover a wider area.
However, the study does bring up new questions about the evolution of marine animals and how sharks and dolphins in their today’s form came to be.
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