Ammonites evolved even before the asteroid impact that killed the dinosaurs, study finds

New research challenges previous understanding of the ammonite extinction. These coiled-shelled creatures, relatives of squid and octopuses, were previously thought to have gone extinct along with the dinosaurs 66 million years ago.

A study published in Nature Communications Discoveries made by paleontologists at the University of Bristol tell a different story. Ammonites appear to have continued to evolve until the catastrophic asteroid collision that wiped out the dinosaurs.

This discovery overturns a long-held belief and sheds new light on an event that dramatically changed Earth's biodiversity. Lead author Dr. Joseph Flannery-Sutherland highlights the importance of re-evaluating the fossil record, acknowledging its limitations in painting a complete picture of past ecosystems.

“Ammonites have had an amazing evolutionary history,” said Dr. Austin Hendy, Curator of Invertebrate Paleontology at the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County. “With their formidable armor and powerful tentacles, they innovated the art of swimming. They could grow as big as a car or as small as a few millimeters in diameter. They played equally varied roles in their ecosystems, from predators at the top of the food web to filter feeders that eat plankton.”

“Understanding how and why biodiversity has changed over time is very challenging,” said lead author Dr. Joseph Flannery-Sutherland. “The fossil record tells us some story, but it is often an unreliable narrative. Patterns of diversity may only reflect sampling patterns, basically where and when we found new fossil species, rather than actual biological history. Analyzing the existing Late Cretaceous ammonite fossil record as if it were the complete global story is probably why previous researchers thought they were in long-term ecological decline.”

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