A new study puts an end to the longstanding debate about how archaic birds went extinct, suggesting they were virtually wiped out by the same meteorite impact that put an end to dinosaurs 65 million years ago.

For decades, scientists have debated whether birds from the Cretaceous period – which are very different from today’s modern bird species -died out slowly or were killed suddenly by the Chicxulub meteorite. The uncertainty was due in part to the fact that very few fossil birds from the end of this era have been discovered.

Now a team of paleontologists led by Yale researcher Nicholas Longrich has provided clear evidence that many primitive bird species survived right up until the time of the meteorite impact. They identified and dated a large collection of bird fossils representing a range of different species, many of which were alive within 300,000 years of the impact.

Primitive birds shared dinosaur fate, 9/21/11

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