Washington: A new study has recently revealed that asteroid impact didn't cause vast global firestorms that wiped out the dinosaurs.
A team of researchers from the University of Exeter, University of Edinburgh and Imperial College London recreated the immense energy released from an extra-terrestrial collision with Earth that occurred around the time that dinosaurs became extinct.
They found that the intense but short-lived heat near the impact site could not have ignited live plants, challenging the idea that the impact led to global firestorms.
These firestorms have previously been considered a major contender in the puzzle to find out what caused the mass extinction of life on Earth 65 million years ago.
The researchers found that close to the impact site, a 200 km wide crater in Mexico, the heat pulse - that would have lasted for less than a minute - was too short to ignite live plant material. However they discovered that the effects of the impact would have been felt as far away as New Zealand where the heat would have been less intense but longer lasting - heating the ground for about seven minutes - long enough to ignite live plant matter.
The experiments were carried out in the laboratory and showed that dry plant matter could ignite, but live plants including green pine branches, typically do not.
Plants and animals are generally resistant to localised fire events - animals can hide or hibernate and plants can re-colonise from other areas, implying that wildfires are unlikely to be directly capable of leading to the extinctions.
If however some animal communities, particularly large animals, were unable to shelter from the heat, they may have suffered serious losses. It is unclear whether these would have been sufficient to lead to the extinction of species.