How flowering plants became nature’s survivors after dinosaurs went extinct

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Did you know that flowering plants are like the superheroes of the plant world?

A new study shows that they managed to survive the massive event that wiped out the dinosaurs 66 million years ago.

Not just survive, but they thrived and became the most common type of plant we see today.

This huge event that changed Earth forever is called the Cretaceous-Paleogene (or K-Pg) extinction.

It was caused by a big asteroid hitting Earth. The impact was so bad that at least 75% of all species on Earth disappeared, including the dinosaurs. But what happened to the flowering plants?

Well, plants don’t have bones, so we don’t find many plant fossils. This makes it hard to know what really happened to them back then.

To find out, scientists Dr. Jamie Thompson from the University of Bath in the UK and Dr. Santiago Ramírez-Barahona from Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México looked at DNA from living flowering plants.

They studied up to 73,000 different kinds! This helped them create what they call ‘evolutionary trees’ to understand how these plants changed over time.

With some really smart number-crunching, the scientists estimated how many types of flowering plants went extinct and how many survived.

They found out that while some did go extinct, the families they belonged to stayed alive.

And guess what? Out of about 400,000 types of plants alive today, around 300,000 are flowering plants.

This means that the plants we often see around us—like orchids, magnolia, and mint—have very old family roots. Their ancestors were around when dinosaurs roamed the Earth!

So why did flowering plants do so well when others didn’t? Dr. Thompson said it’s a bit like what happened with mammals—they got their big chance after the dinosaurs were gone.

Most life on Earth today relies on flowering plants in some way. For example, they’re important for making the air we breathe and the food we eat.

But what makes flowering plants so special? Dr. Ramírez-Barahona has an idea. He calls it ‘flower power’.

Flowering plants are really good at changing to survive. They’ve come up with smart ways to spread their seeds and attract creatures to help them pollinate. Some have even doubled their entire DNA to become more robust, and others have found new methods to use sunlight to make their food.

In short, flowering plants are nature’s ultimate survivors. They’ve been through a lot, and they’ve used their special skills to adapt and stay alive.

So next time you see a beautiful flower or enjoy its scent, remember it’s not just pretty—it’s a survivor from an ancient world!

The study was published in Biology Letters.

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Source: University of Bath.