Lacinipetalum spectabilis, a 64-million-year-old
flower found in Patagonia.

Outliving The Dinosaurs. When an apocalypse struck, a million flowers bloomed. And then some.

When a mountain-size slab of space rock struck off the Yucatan Peninsula 66 millions years ago, the fallout was apocalyptic. Tsunamis washed away coastlines, fires engulfed forests and dust blotted out the sun for months.

Roughly three-quarters of the planet's species, most notably non-avian dinosaurs, were wiped out.

But one group appears to have weathered the maelstrom. In a new paper, researchers present evidence that flowering plants survived the Cretaceous-Paleogene, or K-Pg, mass extinction relatively unscathed, compared with other living things on Earth at the time.

The catastrophe may have even helped flowering plants blossom into the dominant green things they are today.

'' It's just bizarre to think that flowering plants survived K-Pg when dinosaurs didn't, '' said Jamie Thompson, from the University of Bath, an author of the study.

Flowering plants, known to scientists as angiosperms, originated in the early Cretaceous, and were often overshadowed by older groups like conifers and ferns. But they diversified as mass extinction loomed.

WHILE more work is needed to determine how angiosperms survived, the researchers posit that their adaptability played a role. Because flowering plants are pollinated by both insects and wind, they have significant reproductive flexibility.

Their vast diversity - by the end of the Cretaceous, grasses, sycamore and magnolia trees, and aquatic waterlilies had all appeared - may have also helped them survive. [Jack Tamisiea ]


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