Scientists are presenting a new theory which may explain the extinction of the dinosaurs. According to an article on ScienceDaily it may have been something a lot smaller than a catastrophic event like a giant asteroid impact: disease-carrying insects.
"There are serious problems with the sudden impact theories of dinosaur extinction, not the least of which is that dinosaurs declined and disappeared over a period of hundreds of thousands, or even millions of years," said George Poinar Jr., a courtesy professor of zoology at Oregon State University. "That time frame is just not consistent with the effects of an asteroid impact. But competition with insects, emerging new diseases and the spread of flowering plants over very long periods of time is perfectly compatible with everything we know about dinosaur extinction."
This concept is outlined in detail in "What Bugged the Dinosaurs? Insects, Disease and Death in the Cretaceous," a book by George and Roberta Poinar, just published by Princeton University Press.
In it, the authors argue that insects provide a plausible and effective explanation for the slow, inexorable decline and eventual extinction of dinosaurs over many thousands of years. This period is known as the famous "K-T Boundary," or the line between the Cretaceous and Tertiary Period about 65 million years ago. There is evidence that some catastrophic events, such as a major asteroid or lava flows, also occurred at this time -- but these provide no complete explanation for the gradual decline of dinosaur populations, and even how some dinosaurs survived for thousands of years after the K-T Boundary.
Insects and disease, on the other hand, may have been a lot slower, but ultimately finished the job.
"We don't suggest that the appearance of biting insects and the spread of disease are the only things that relate to dinosaur extinction," Poinar said. "Other geologic and catastrophic events certainly played a role. But by themselves, such events do not explain a process that in reality took a very, very long time, perhaps millions of years. Insects and diseases do provide that explanation."