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Up, up and away
The skies above late Cretaceous dinosaurs were busy. Pterosaurs, huge flying reptiles with wingspans of up to 12 metres, had once been numerous but were on the decline during the late Cretaceous. Their place was being taken by direct descendents of dinosaurs - birds. Birds had evolved from the theropod group of dinosaurs, which included bipedal predators such as Velociraptor and Tyrannosaurus rex. By the late Cretaceous, birds were widespread in forests and mudflats. Some resembled modern birds, such as curlews and sandpipers. There was even a forerunner of today's parrot family.

The great extinction
We don't know what caused it but, at the end of the Cretaceous, there was large-scale extinction in marine and terrestrial life. Other life-forms, including reptiles and mammals, survived but dinosaurs - except for birds, of course - became extinct. Debate over the cause of this mass extinction is intense. Some scientists believe that an increase in volcanic activity, together with the effects of the shifting continents, caused profound climate change on Earth. Another theory is that a massive extraterrestrial object hit the planet, throwing up a huge dust cloud that obscured the sun, triggering climatic changes. Whatever the explanation, the age of the dinosaur was over.

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