Atlas Obscura is organizing trips! Join us on an adventure »
Today Only: 50% off Atlas Obscura books and calendars at Barnes & Noble »

Dinosaurs Were Probably in Decline Well Before Massive Asteroid Strike

The Earth was already cooling, for one thing.

(Photo: ssr ist4u/CC BY-SA 3.0)

Dinosaurs might have been dying out long before a massive asteroid struck Earth millions of years ago, killing them for good, scientists said recently

The new theory means that the beasts’ extinction likely wasn’t just because of the asteroid strike, but also a gradual consequence of the Earth’s long-term cooling, from a generally warm place to a climate that more closely resembles what we have now. 

Dinosaurs, scientists think, were much more suited to the warmer climates, while mammals fared better in the cooler ones. 

“We were not expecting this result,” Manabu Sakamoto, a paleontologist who led the new research, told the BBC.”Even though they were wiped out ultimately by the impact of the asteroid, they were actually already on their way out around 50 million years before the asteroid hit.”

Dinosaurs were first seen over 230 million years ago, going extinct around 165 million years later. (Avian dinosaurs, incidentally, probably survived the extinction event.)

So was there ever a chance that we could have lived alongside a Tyrannosaurus rex? Probably not. But it’s nice to dream.