Technically known as the “Cretaceous-Paleogene extinction event,” and more commonly remembered as the extinction of dinosaurs – 66 million years ago a meteor hit Mexico’s Yucatan peninsula.

The event thought of as mass extinction really did much more than just wipe out the population of dinosaurs on earth. Benjamin Blonder, the study’s lead author said, “If you think about a mass extinction caused by catastrophic event such as a meteorite impacting earth, you might imagine all species are equally likely to die.”

Which is solid conventional wisdom, but actually doesn’t entirely apply in this case.

“Survival of the fittest doesn’t apply – the impact is like a reset button. The alternative hypothesis, however, is that some species had properties that enabled them to survive,” he goes on to say.

“Our study provides evidence of a dramatic shift from slow-growing plants to fast-growing species. This tells us that the extinction was not random, and the way in which a plant acquires resources predicts how it can respond to a major disturbance.”

Furthermore, he goes on to explain that this is the simple answer to why we see forests that are predominantly deciduous, instead of evergreen.

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Previous research indicated that the meteorite introduced varying weather throughout the globe. Thus creating seasons. The types of seasons that we know and experience now, although they have moderately changed throughout the years as climate change has occurred.

When the mass extinction, and severe climate change occurred at the time of the meteorite striking earth 66 million years ago, it would be hard to imagine that something like that could cause color change in the fall – when we see the vibrant yellows, reds, oranges, and so many other colors deeply associated with fall.

But, this research conducted in North Dakota, shows that we have a large space rock, to thank for that. The researchers studied about 1,000 fossilized plant leaves, in a region that was at one time a lowland floodplain.

Source: PLOS Biology