Essay on The Role of Fungus in the Extinction of Dinosaurs

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The Role of Fungus in the Extinction of Dinosaurs

The debate over what ultimately killed off the dinosaurs is an area of great interest to not only scientists, but everyone. The dominant thought seems to be that an asteroid struck the earth at the end of the Cretaceous period and killed off much of the fauna and flora inhabiting the earth. However, the sequence of events following that mass extinction has been fairly blurry until a recent discovery, published in a recent issue of Science, by paleontologists Vivi Vajda and Stephen McLoughlin. These discoveries have revealed that during a period from anywhere between a few months and a couple of years after the asteroid stuck earth, fungus served as the dominant flora across the globe
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The perplexing part though, was that on top of this thick layer, there was a 4mm thick layer that consisted of only fungal spores and various species of fungi (Vajda). This was an interesting discovery because it seemed that at one point, all of the conifers and complex floral life was extinguished and replaced by a brief period in which fungi was the dominant (if not only) plant life in what used to be a thick forest region. This evidence suggests that something (most likely the asteroid that hit earth) caused all of the photosynthetic based plants, like conifers, ferns and the like, to die out and non-photosynthetic flora like fungi were able thrive and dominate. According to Vajda and McLoughlin, the asteroids impact must have caused “high humidity and reduced solar insulation due to increased atmospheric sulfur aerosols and dust.” This moist, dark environment provided perfect conditions for fungi to thrive in, and certainly would have caused larger plant life to die. These conditions would have also been more than detrimental to the animal life at the time. It makes sense to believe that the impact and its repercussions killed off many large species of animals like dinosaurs, who couldn’t adapt to the new environmental conditions. Smaller animals; however, would have been more likely to have survived due to their ability to move quickly and sustain life without nearly as

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