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Stronger Jaws Helped Plant Eaters Survive the 'Great Dying' That Killed 90% of Earth's Species

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Last Updated: May 16, 2021, 17:48 IST

How did herbivores survive the 'Great Dying'? | Image credit: Reuters

How did herbivores survive the 'Great Dying'? | Image credit: Reuters

Herbivores survived the end-Permian mass extinction that wiped out dinosaurs and other species of plants and animals by developing stronger jaws to eat tougher plants.

Scientists have linked the evolution of herbivores with the plants that survived after the ‘great dying’ that had wiped out more than 90 percent of the species 252 million years ago. Researchers at the University of Bristol found that the remaining herbivores diversified from eating harsher plants after mass extinctions to eat different kinds of plants. Those who reflected this power became the most successful. The first dinosaurs were among the toughest herbivores, reported India EducationDiary.

End-Permian mass extinction -the largest mass extinction of all time — led to ecosystems being rebuilt from the scratch during Triassic times around 251-252 million years ago, when different kinds of plants and animals gained life.

The study, led by Dr Suresh Singh of Bristol’s School of Earth Science, was published in Nature Communications and has provided fresh evidence about the post-extinction period.

“The main animals in any ecosystem tend to be the herbivores, and we found that they show remarkable evidence of specialisation in the turbulent times after the great mass extinction," Dr Suresh noted, while adding, “In fact, the environmental shocks that killed so many species, such as global warming and acid rain, were still returning from time to time, but the survivors were set on exploring new diets.”


Dr Tom Stubbs, who collaborated with Dr Suresh in the study said they were surprised to have been able to “identify definite specialisations among the herbivores".Dr Tom explained that the groups which survived the largest mass extinction can be classified as “ingestion generalists, prehension specialists, heavy oral processors", among others and added that these names reflect power of their jaws and teeths, and the kind of plants the first dinosaurs must be eating.

Researchers studied the 80 million years following the ‘great dying’ and included the diversification of first-plant eating dinosaurs.

Keywords: the mass extinction, great dying, Dinosaur age, herbivores, University of Bristol

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first published:May 16, 2021, 17:48 IST
last updated:May 16, 2021, 17:48 IST