Dinosaurs were killed off by a piece of 'colossal bad luck'

A tyrannosaurs rex skeleton

Prehistoric giants would probably have survived giant asteroid strike if it had been at different time

LAST UPDATED AT 12:44 ON Mon 28 Jul 2014

A stroke of "colossal bad luck" wiped out dinosaurs, according to a new study by 11 leading experts.

For many years, scientists have debated whether an asteroid or climate change caused the demise of dinosaurs. Now it seems that an unfortunate combination of factors finished them off.

Dr Steve Brusatte, of Edinburgh University, says prehistoric creatures might have survived if the six-mile wide asteroid, credited by many with wiping them out, them out had struck a few million years earlier or later.

He said environmental upheaval, including sea level rises and volcanic activity, had already made several species more susceptible to extinction at the time the asteroid struck what is now Mexico, some 66 million years ago.

"It was a perfect storm of events that occurred when dinosaurs were at their most vulnerable," Dr Brusatte, whose study used up-to-date fossil records and improved analytical tools, told the BBC.

Had the strike come a few million years earlier, dinosaurs might have survived as the range of species was bigger and food chains more robust. Had it occurred a few million years later, new species would have been given the chance to evolve, which would have helped them escape extinction.

Instead, the only dinosaurs to survive were those who could fly, and they evolved to become the birds of the present day.

How different history could have been. Dr Richard Butler, of the University of Birmingham, said: "Without that asteroid, the dinosaurs would probably still be here, and we very probably would not." · 

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