Could dinosaurs have survived if the asteroid that wiped them out hit the Earth a little earlier or a little later?
Dinosaurs were wiped out by an asteroid impact when they were at their most vulnerable, according to a new study.
Dr Steve Brusatte, of Edinburgh University, said sea level rises and volcanic activity had made many species more susceptible to extinction.
They might have survived if the asteroid had hit the Earth a few million years later or earlier, he said, calling it “colossal bad luck”.
The assessment has been published in the journal, Biological Reviews.
“It was a perfect storm of events that occurred when dinosaurs were at their most vulnerable,” Dr Brusatte told BBC News.
“With evolution never say never. It is certainly possible that dinosaurs could have evolved intelligence” Dr Steve Brusatte Edinburgh University
The study brought together 11 leading dinosaur experts from the UK, US and Canada to assess the latest research on the extinction of dinosaurs 66 million years ago.
There is evidence that some species of dinosaur were dying off shortly before an asteroid hit the Earth.
One of the key questions was whether this gradual decline would have led to the extinction of these animals even if the asteroid had not hit.
The experts concluded that although some species of plant eaters in North America were dying out in the period leading up to the asteroid impact there was no evidence of a long-term decline.
However, the experts believe that rises in sea level and increased volcanic activity made many species more susceptible to extinction just at the point that the asteroid struck.
Them or us?
Dr Brusatte believes that had the asteroid hit the Earth a few million years earlier before the environmental pressures became worse or a few million years later, when the dinosaurs might have recovered, they would be roaming the Earth to this day.