Dinosaurs ruled the world between the period of 66 and 247 million years back. Although available in different shapes and sizes, many of ‘em where humongous giants, bigger than NASA space shuttle Endeavour. Researchers have already found enough evidence that asserts that impact of a huge asteroid at the Yucatan Peninsula near Mexico followed by massive volcanic eruptions led to the end of the dinosaurs around the world. However, two evolutionary psychologists have come up with a new study which although doesn’t deny the fact of asteroids wiping out the dinosaurs, it states the precursor of events which marked the “beginning of the end” where toxic plants are the sinister culprit.
Gordon Gallup from the University of Albany and Michael Frederick from the University of Baltimore have published a radical study where toxic plants and food poisoning has been linked towards killing dinosaurs before the asteroid impact could actually wipe out their existence. The research paper touted as ‘Biotic Revenge Hypothesis’ is published in the journal Ideas in Ecology and Evolution.
As per the hypothesis, toxic plants are to be blamed for killing a large number of asteroids for which, the evidence is available in the fossil records. The event started more than millions of years before the colossal asteroid could actually hit the Yucatan Peninsula thereby disrupting and wiping off all the dinosaurs from the face of the Earth, few aquatic and avian species were too lucky to be safe from this catastrophic event. As per the hypothesis, herbivorous dinosaurs or those dinosaurs who were vegetarian in a sense who ate plant material were huge in size because of which, they needed a huge quantity of plants to munch on every day to stay alive. This is the angiosperms, the first toxic planet came into play which caused gastrointestinal distress to a large number of herbivores dinosaurs.
But, due to their huge size, their huge appetite and not-yet-developed taste aversion which is disliking a food which causes poisoning. Since these dinosaur lack taste aversion, they won’t actually refrain from eating it no matter how poisonous it could be. Although it wouldn’t have affected these giant animals much at first, however, consuming more and more of these toxic plants become lethal and extremely dangerous to these species which resulted in death.
The researchers involved in this hypothesis asserted that they haven’t denied the fact that asteroid hit was the final blow to wipe off all the dinosaurs from Earth, the hypothesis fills up the gap between the asteroid hit and millions of years before it when the population of dinosaurs began to decline. As per the fossil records, dinosaur population began to deplete at the end of Cretaceous Period which is the same period when toxic plants like angiosperms began to thrive thus, researchers connected the dots and found astounding results.
Researchers also looked for evidence of taste aversions in species of dinosaurs which actually outlived the dinosaurs such as Birds which are believed to have developed food aversions which actually saved them from extinction. The same phenomenon was recorded with crocodilians who outlived the dinosaurs. As per a study conducted by Gallup in 1987, the researcher studied the behavior of caimans when introduced to foods that would cause trouble. It was found that caimans would actually munch on everything that was available irrespective if it posed problems or not, however, a biological quirk prevented their extinction since they weren’t exposed to terrestrial toxic plants much when compared to dinosaurs living on land.
Both Frederick and Gallup believe that this hypothesis can spark debate among paleontologists, however, they want paleontologists to help analyze the study and provide evidence to test its validity.