Part of the devastation of the mass extinction event was the heat decimating entire forests and igniting forest fires throughout the planet, according to CNN. This was identified by seeing the sturdier and longer legs of the ground-dwelling birds.
Furthermore, an analysis of the most common fossil birds of the late Cretaceous-a primitive group known as the enantiornithes-suggests most were tree dwelling.
"We concluded that the temporary elimination of forests in the aftermath of the asteroid impact explains why arboreal birds failed to survive across this extinction event", said Field.
The only birds that survived were ground-dwellers, including ancient relatives of ducks, chickens, and ostriches. But the other birds that lived in the trees failed to survive, as the forest had nearly ceased to exist as a result of the massive fire.
Birds that lived in trees became extinct as well, because the asteroid's impact destroyed the forests. Vapor, abundant in sulfates, triggered acid rain. Then came the years of cold and darkness, when sulfate, dust and soot in the upper atmosphere blocked the light from the sun.
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This seems to match with their reconstructions, which show that the birds that survived the extinction event had ground-dwelling features, such as relatively long legs. Jingmai O'Connor, a paleontologist at the Institute of Vertebrate Paleontology and Paleoanthropology in China said, "Forest loss was only one of several factors working in combination that determined which bird lineages survived".
"This place is known for having a handsome record across the interval that we are looking at - the so called Cretaceous-Paleogene boundary - the mass extinction event following the Chicxulub impact", MacLeod added.
For this paper, an global team of scientists used statistical methods to reconstruct the ancient ancestors of living bird groups.
Studying entire paleoecosystems demonstrates how life in the world has actually developed through all the trials and adversities of the past, Dunn stated in an e-mail.
" Human activity is triggering logging on an enormous scale", Field stated.
But it's also incredibly important to study what happened during the fifth mass extinction because many scientists believe we're entering the sixth mass extinction. "We know that the diversity of bird communities is impacted by the availability of forests - when forests are cut down in favor of, for example, palm oil monoculture, bird diversity is slashed. It's possible that, if this sort of logging continues unabated, it will leave an enduring signature on the advancement of birdlife".
"The atmosphere was loaded for a very brief interval of time, and the consequences of that change in atmospheric composition lasted for 100,000 years", MacLeod says. "We have to take these lessons to heart and act now to maintain today's extensive biodiversity".