Human ancestors co-existed with dinosaurs before surviving asteroid impact

OK, not precisely humans. But the ancient placental mammal lineage that includes humans, dogs, and bats.
Mrigakshi Dixit
Representational image of dinosaurs.
Representational image of dinosaurs.


A new study claims that human ancestors and dinosaurs coexisted for a brief period of time before the devastating asteroid crash.  

Not precisely humans but the ancient placental mammal lineage that includes humans, dogs, and bats.

Researchers from the Universities of Bristol and Fribourg reached this conclusion after studying thousands of placental mammal fossils. 

The extensive fossil data analysis

About 66 million years ago, when a giant space rock blasted into Earth, it wiped out all non-avian dinosaurs. And this catastrophic event became known as the Cretaceous-Paleogene (K-Pg) mass extinction. 

Researchers have long sought evidence to determine whether placental animals coexisted with the massive dinosaurs or appeared on Earth only after the catastrophic extinction. 

The official release stated that the fossil evidence of placental mammals goes back less than 66 million years old. This suggests that the placental mammals' group likely emerged post-mass extinction. 

However, molecular data analysis paints a different picture, indicating that placental mammal fossils predate extinction. 

To get a more accurate conclusion, the researchers in this new study gathered extensive fossil data from placental mammal groups dating back to the mass extinction 66 million years ago.

“We pulled together thousands of fossils of placental mammals and were able to see the patterns of origination and extinction of the different groups. Based on this, we could estimate when placental mammals evolved,” said Emily Carlisle, lead author from the University of Bristol, in an official release.

They analyzed the fossil records statistically to determine the exact origin of placental mammals. The findings reveal that the group evolved before the mass extinction, implying that placental mammals co-existed with dinosaurs for a brief time. 

It is believed that primates (a group that includes human lineage) evolved during the period of the dinosaurs before the K-Pg mass extinction.

Although, the modern lineages of placental mammals began to emerge only after the asteroid impact. This means that placental mammals were likely able to diversify post the demise of the majestic dinosaurs. 

“The model we used estimates origination ages based on when lineages first appear in the fossil record and the pattern of species diversity through time for the lineage. It can also estimate extinction ages based on the last appearances when the group is extinct,” explained Daniele Silvestro, a co-author from the University of  Fribourg.

The study results were been published in Current Biology on June 27.

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