HERE’S an interesting question for you to ponder: What would the Earth look like today if dinosaurs had never been made extinct?
Would they still look like dinosaurs, 65 million years later?
Would the other animals, such as birds and mammals, be as dominant as they are now – or even be around at all?
And here’s a biggie – would human beings have evolved?We can, of course, never really know the answer to these questions, unless we manage to develop the technology to travel between parallel universes. But we can make some sensible or intelligent guesses, because we know how evolution works, and how animals relate to each other.
Some scientists believe if dinosaurs were still around today it is most likely they would have evolved into totally different creatures. Maybe they would have become more intelligent, gaining bigger brains, walking upright, using their hands and feet to use tools, just like our primitive ancestors.
Others think they would still be recognisably dinosaurian – after all, they ruled the earth for 170 million years, and did not develop into anything remotely like humans during that immense time. So why would an extra 65 million years make much difference? Maybe dinosaurs had already reached their peak – after all, there’s no reason to believe every branch of existence leads to what we would call intelligence.
But what of the other species on the planet? Would birds – which we know actually evolved from dinosaurs – still be around if their larger cousins had remained?
And what about mammals? We believe that the small shrew-like creatures that darted under the feet of dinosaurs so long ago eventually evolved into the huge range of mammals we have today. If the dinosaurs’ extinction had not given them a boost, would they have been wiped out, or evolved in a different way?
Sadly, we will never know the answers to these questions. We can but speculate. How interesting it would be to be able to get a glimpse into a world which had taken such a different evolutionary path to our own.