Did insects, affected by climate change, kill off the dinosaurs?

image: locusts compete with farmers

A startling scenario of the annihilation of the human race has crept out quietly early one morning this week on BBC Radio4’s Farming Today programme.

The programme interviews a scientist from Pennsylvania State University who uses fossil records from the time of the dinosaurs to build a break picture of our future survival. Insects and climate change are to blame.

Fossil records from around 55 million years ago apparently show a sudden increase in CO2 concentrations within the atmosphere and a corresponding explosion in insect activity.

Within 5000 years the earth’s atmosphere warms by around 5 degrees C. At the same time insects normally found in the tropical zones start advancing northward and south away from the equator. They are having to eat more plant matter per insect too. The reason for this is that increased CO2 causes less nitrogen uptake by the plants which makes the plants less nutritious to the insects.

To keep up their levels of nutrition each insect must eat more plant matter. The problem for the dinosaurs in this scenario is that they find themselves with less and less plant matter to eat themselves. Eventually they starve to death.

The scientist believes this can happen to us too.

Right now the UK is suffering from a strange plague of ladybirds. [cue the music of  Tales of the Unexpected/Twilight Zone].

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This entry was posted in Biodiversity, Climate change, Desertification, Extreme weather, Food & Agriculture, Wildlife and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to Did insects, affected by climate change, kill off the dinosaurs?

  1. earthpal says:

    Interesting. I also read that the emergence of disease-carrying biting insects might have accelerated the death of the dinosaur too:

    http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/01/080103090702.htm

    Small and mighty huh.

    Spooky about the Ladybirds. Woke up from their hibernation early because of the unusually warm weather perhaps?

  2. matt says:

    That’s a good article there EP. I’ve only just had a chance to read it.

    I like: “After many millions of years of evolution, mammals, birds and reptiles have evolved some resistance to these diseases. But back in the Cretaceous, these diseases were new and invasive, and vertebrates had little or no natural or acquired immunity to them. Massive outbreaks causing death and localized extinctions would have occurred.”

    That makes sense and this following piece fits in with the above report in the body of my post: ‘….and the insects could have been major competitors for the available plant food supply.’

    And this summary really does add up: ”The confluence of new insect-spread diseases, loss of traditional food sources, and competition for plants by insect pests could all have provided a lingering, debilitating condition that dinosaurs were ultimately unable to overcome,” the researchers say. This clearly fills in some gaps regarding dinosaur extinctions.”

  3. earthpal says:

    Yes, it certainly does seem to be like a jigsaw slowly coming together. Interesting stuff.

    My little boy is dinosaur-crazy and has just completed an archeological dig (a toy one!) and has discovered a whole dinosaur skeleton. It’s great. He’s been asking all kinds of questions about them (why don’t they exist anymore etc.). I’m going to tell him all about the insects etc. that we’ve learned about here.

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