Would dinosaurs still be alive today? Would they have evolved? Would humans have survived this long? Could we ever learn to co-exist?
Until 66 million years ago, dinosaurs of all shapes and sizes roamed the Earth. Intelligent, adaptable, and sometimes weighing as much as two jetplanes, it’s hard to believe that it only took one rock to wipe them all out. Of course, this was no ordinary rock.
The asteroid that took out the dinosaurs was 9 miles wide (15 km), and hit Earth with the destructive force of 10 billion Hiroshima bombs. The radioactive shockwave obliterated everything for hundreds of miles in every direction. Towering tsunamis rippled across the globe, and 75% of all species on Earth went extinct. But if that asteroid had hit just a little earlier, a little later, or a even few miles off course… we would be living in a very different world today.
The rock that killed the dinosaurs struck the shallow waters of Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula. Had it landed a little farther off the coast, in a deeper part of the ocean, the water might have absorbed some of the blast along with its devastating effects on the atmosphere. But even if the asteroid missed the earth, dinosaurs would’ve had to survive several significant global events in order to make it to the present day.
55 million years ago, temperatures rose… the climate was 8°C (46°F) hotter than it is today. Rainforests sprouted, and vegetation flourished. Herbivores would’ve adapted and thrived, but they’d start to look a little different. The plants of this period were less nutritious and easier to digest, meaning dinosaurs would likely shrink in size since their new diet wouldn’t yield as much energy.
Roughly 20 million years after that, South America and Antarctica split, creating a cooler and drier world climate. During this period, long-legged, fast-moving dinosaurs would have evolved to travel the huge grasslands stretching out across the globe. Compared with mammals of this period, dinosaurs held significant advantages, such as having more teeth and better eye-sight.
Considering that dinosaurs were already so advanced, scientists wonder whether mammals would have evolved at all if dinosaurs hadn’t gone extinct. It’s likely that the big animals we know today would’ve been prey to dinosaurs, but remember, humans evolved alongside wooly mammoths and Saber-toothed cats! While those species didn’t survive the ice-ages of 2.6 million years ago, given the evolutionary traits of some dinosaurs, there’s a chance they might have persisted.
But what about us? Could we handle freezing temperatures and huge, terrifyingly vicious predators? They say running keeps the body warm but that might also make you taste better. In an alternate universe, if we did survive alongside these prehistoric beasts, it’s possible we could see a real live T-Rex in a protected reserve, not unlike Jurassic Park.
Human population growth and excessive hunting would’ve likely driven larger dinosaurs to near extinction. Today they would most certainly be an endangered species. But those that shrank and adapted over millions of years could co-exist peacefully among us.
In fact, some actually do. Where do you think pigeons came from? It’s hard to believe that birds were once the size of bi-planes, but then again, it’s hard to believe that with a slight twist of fate, it’s hard to believe that with a slight twist of fate, we might’ve walked with dinosaurs, or we might have become dinosaur chow, and not have evolved at all.
- John Pickrell, BBC, What if dinosaurs hadn’t died out?
- Adam Hadhazy, LiveScience, What If a Giant Asteroid Had Not Wiped Out the Dinosaurs?
- Sara Chodosh, PopSci, If that asteroid had been 30 seconds late