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Scientists hypothesize that these organisms survived the collapse of plant-based food chains because they fed on detritus (non-living organic material).In stream communities, few animal groups became extinct because such communities rely less directly on food from living plants and more on detritus that washes in from the land, buffering them from extinction.It marked the end of the Cretaceous period and with it, the entire Mesozoic Era, opening the Cenozoic Era that continues today.
The largest air-breathing survivors of the event, crocodyliforms and champsosaurs, were semi-aquatic and had access to detritus.
The K–Pg boundary record of dinoflagellates is not so well understood, mainly because only microbial cysts provide a fossil record, and not all dinoflagellate species have cyst-forming stages, thereby, likely causing diversity to be underestimated.
The blue graph shows the apparent percentage (not the absolute number) of marine animal genera becoming extinct during any given time interval.
Animals in the water column are almost entirely dependent on primary production from living phytoplankton, while animals living on or in the ocean floor feed on detritus or can switch to detritus feeding.
Coccolithophorids and mollusks (including ammonites, rudists, freshwater snails, and mussels), and those organisms whose food chain included these shell builders, became extinct or suffered heavy losses.