Abstract

At the end of the Cretaceous the principal animals that became extinct, such as dinosaurs, marine animals that lived in the water column, and benthic filter feeders, were in food chains tied directly to living plant matter. Animal groups less affected by extinction, including marine benthic scavengers and deposit feeders, small insectivorous mammals, and members of stream communities, were in food chains dependent on dead plant material. The proposal that an asteroid or comet impact at the end of the Cretaceous produced a dust cloud that cut off photosynthesis for several months is consistent with this pattern of extinction. Food chains dependent on living plant matter crashed, while food chains based on detritus were buffered from extinction because there was a food supply adequate for the interval when photosynthesis was halted.

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