Wednesday, 22 October 2014

Did Mammals Sleep Through Cosmic Impact That Ended Dinosaurs?

y Charles Q. Choi, Live Science Contributor | October 22, 2014 07:25am ET

A shrewlike creature in Madagascar that can hibernate for at least nine months of the year without waking may help reveal how mammals survived the cataclysm that ended the age of dinosaurs, researchers suggest.

These findings could also help lead to a way to put astronauts in a state of suspended animation on journeys in deep space and for victims of medical emergencies, scientists added.

The disaster that killed off all dinosaurs except birds about 67 million years ago, the so-called end-Cretaceous extinction event, was probably a giant cosmic impact that struck near what is now Chicxulub, Mexico. To find out how the ancestors of today's mammals survived this catastrophe to inherit the Earth when so many other, more dominant groups of animals did not, researchers investigated the life of "Shrëwdinger" — a virtual example, developed in a prior study, of the small, insect-eating, furry-tailed creature that was the likely forerunner of most living mammals. 

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