How Termites Influenced The Size Of Dinosaurs

One thing we know for sure about dinosaurs is that most of them were huge. However, over time, certain dinosaur species started getting smaller and smaller. Some researchers believe that this shift occurred when the dinosaurs picked up a new diet: termites. The dinosaurs that the researchers looked at ranged in size from 10 to 70 kg, roughly the size of a small ostrich, before they rapidly plummeted, becoming the size of a chicken.

The species in question is the alvarezsaur, which lived 160 to 70 million years ago in South America, Mongolia, and China, among other parts of the world. It was a slender predator that ran on two legs, feeding on lizards, baby dinosaurs and early mammals.

During the Cretaceous however, ecosystems started changing and evolving rapidly, and archeologists believe that the alvarezsaur was faced with increased competition from other species. One of the biggest ecological changes of that era was the gradual takeover of the landscape by flowering plants, and these plants were not part of many dinosaurs’ diets. Instead, they created the right conditions for new types of insects to explode in population – ants and termites.

This period of ecological restructuring is called the Cretaceous Terrestrial Revolution, and during it, the environment transferred to modern-style woodlands and forests, where you have diverse vegetation that can sustain various insect and animal species.

One of the first hurdles that the researchers encountered in their study was whether the smaller alvarezsaur skeletons were simply juveniles, but they were able to prove that they did in fact belong to much smaller adults by the number of growth rings inside the bone.

This new genus had several distinctive characteristics, besides their smaller size. One of them is a shorter arm length, with only one finger that resembled a small spike. Researchers believed that this arm structure was no longer meant to grab things, but to punch them – in particular, it was designed to punch holes in termite mounds. This is quite the transformation, considering that the alvarezsaur originally had flexible forelimbs.

So we can see that termites have had a huge ecological impact ever since they first came to prominence in our world. Nowadays, they force us to adapt to their ravenous diets as they destroy the wood in our home. If you suspect that you have a termite infestation, contact us today and set up an appointment for an inspection. You want to get rid of these pests as soon as possible.

 

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