JAN 19, 2020 6:01 AM PST

Study Reaffirms That An Asteroid Killed the Dinosaurs, Not Volcanoes

WRITTEN BY: Anthony Bouchard

Oodles of massive fossils tell stories about the fearsome beasts that once roamed the Earth called dinosaurs. Some were merciless carnivores with jaws meant for ripping through other creatures like paper, while others were peaceful herbivores that reached their heads into the trees with their long necks to munch on leaves.

What really killed the dinosaurs?

Image Credit: Pixabay

While there’s plenty of evidence to support the existence of dinosaurs millions and millions of years ago, one thing that remains exceptionally cloudy is their extinction. Albeit apparent that the dinosaurs are no longer with us, the bigger question lies in how exactly they all went extinct.

Two of the most accepted theories explaining the dinosaurs’ complete and utter extinction are volcano eruptions and asteroid impacts. Although it’s true that volcanoes can substantially influence the planet’s climate, a new study published just this past week in the journal Science implies that they couldn’t have influenced it enough to wipe out the dinosaurs.

To reach this conclusion, a team of researchers took to the North Atlantic Ocean and drilled down into the seafloor for mud samples that could tell them more about the planet’s history. Their drilling resulted in a plethora of shelled organisms called Foraminifera, and their shells are allegedly like tiny time capsules that can be used to ascertain details about the ocean’s chemistry at a specific time.

"You get about a thousand of them in a teaspoon of sediment. And we can use their shells to figure out the chemistry of the ocean and its temperature, so we can study in great detail the environmental changes that are occurring in the run-up to the extinction event," explained Paul Wilson, a researcher with the study.

"And what we discovered is that the only way in which we can get our (climate) model simulations to match the observed temperature changes is to have the volcanic emissions of harmful gases done and dusted a couple of hundred thousand years before the impact event."

Related: Scientists shed light on 'teenaged' T. rex

As it would seem, the volcano theory doesn’t align with the timeline, and this fueled interest in the asteroid impact theory. A large 200-kilometer-wide crater in the Gulf of Mexico is thought to be the remnant of the asteroid impact that ended the dinosaurs, and perhaps unsurprisingly, that’s where the team looked for answers next.

The massive crater is mostly offshore, but a notable amount of its rim is surrounded by sinkholes in the limestone that make for great research sites. The findings showed that a city-sized asteroid approximately 12 kilometers in length slammed into the Earth, generating large tsunamis, hellish rains of debris, and wildfires.

But if that wasn’t enough to take out of the dinosaurs, then the aftermath would have been. Upon slamming into the sulfur-rich rocks, the asteroid would have vaporized a substantial portion and filled the atmosphere with gasses that would cool the world’s climate substantially. The ensuing chill was then so overwhelming that the dinosaurs couldn’t survive, but some animals, namely of the mammal variety, made it through.

The team determined that the asteroid impact aligned perfectly with the dinosaurs’ extinction timeline, and that coupled with the condemning circumstances, resulted in their demise.

"We find the impact event is exactly contemporaneous with the extinction," Wilson said.

Related: Were dinosaurs 'fluffier' than originally thought?

It’s doubtful that the findings of this study will put the final nail in the coffin for such a long and ongoing debate, but it’s certainly interesting to see yet another perspective. It should be interesting to see whether future studies will agree with the new findings or if they will come to a different conclusion. After all, it’s tough to come to a definitive conclusion when we weren’t even around to bear witness to such events.

Source: BBC, Science

About the Author
  • Fascinated by scientific discoveries and media, Anthony found his way here at LabRoots, where he would be able to dabble in the two. Anthony is a technology junkie that has vast experience in computer systems and automobile mechanics, as opposite as those sound.
You May Also Like
NOV 30, 2021
Earth & The Environment
Historical land dispossession makes Native Americans more vulnerable to climate change
NOV 30, 2021
Historical land dispossession makes Native Americans more vulnerable to climate change
Indigenous nations across the United States have lost 98.9% of their historical land base, leaving them more vulnerable ...
NOV 29, 2021
Health & Medicine
HEX and Human Aggression: Sniffing Chemicals Emitted from Babies' Heads Leads to Different Responses in Men and Women
NOV 29, 2021
HEX and Human Aggression: Sniffing Chemicals Emitted from Babies' Heads Leads to Different Responses in Men and Women
A new study published in Science Advances proposes hexadecenal as the first pheromone scientifically linked to aggr ...
DEC 09, 2021
Earth & The Environment
Microplastics are getting stuck in the bones of coral reefs
DEC 09, 2021
Microplastics are getting stuck in the bones of coral reefs
Unfortunately, it’s commonplace to hear about our seas being polluted with plastic. Many articles and research pro ...
DEC 25, 2021
Earth & The Environment
72-Million-Year-Old Awe-Inspiring Dinosaur Embryo discovered!
DEC 25, 2021
72-Million-Year-Old Awe-Inspiring Dinosaur Embryo discovered!
The baby Oviraptor, named Yingliang, is the best-preserved fossil embryo ever discovered in paleontology.
JAN 03, 2022
Earth & The Environment
The Legacy and Loss of Dr. Richard Leakey
JAN 03, 2022
The Legacy and Loss of Dr. Richard Leakey
Dr. Richard Leakey, one of the fathers of Paleoanthropology has passed away in Kenya.
JAN 17, 2022
Plants & Animals
An Earth-Friendly Diet Starts With Swapping One Food Item Per Day
JAN 17, 2022
An Earth-Friendly Diet Starts With Swapping One Food Item Per Day
When we think about dieting, we often think about how it affects our own physical and mental health. But what about the ...
Loading Comments...