New data says volcanoes, not asteroids, killed dinosaurs


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The uncertainty of science: A careful updating of the geological timeline has strengthened the link between the dinosaur extinction 66 million years ago and a major volcanic event at that time.

A primeval volcanic range in western India known as the Deccan Traps, which were once three times larger than France, began its main phase of eruptions roughly 250,000 years before the Cretaceous-Paleogene, or K-Pg, extinction event, the researchers report in the journal Science. For the next 750,000 years, the volcanoes unleashed more than 1.1 million cubic kilometers (264,000 cubic miles) of lava. The main phase of eruptions comprised about 80-90 percent of the total volume of the Deccan Traps’ lava flow and followed a substantially weaker first phase that began about 1 million years earlier.

The results support the idea that the Deccan Traps played a role in the K-Pg extinction, and challenge the dominant theory that a meteorite impact near present-day Chicxulub, Mexico, was the sole cause of the extinction. The researchers suggest that the Deccan Traps eruptions and the Chicxulub impact need to be considered together when studying and modeling the K-Pg extinction event.

The general public might not know it, but the only ones in the field of dinosaur research that have said the asteroid was the sole cause of the extinction have been planetary scientists.

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5 comments

  • wodun

    Wrong link, goes to this wordpress page on keyboard shortcuts. http://codex.wordpress.org/Keyboard_Shortcuts

    Now, we know what you are secretly up to, trying to be more efficient. Secrets out.

  • Cotour

    I recently came across paleontologists that strongly suggest that the dinosaurs were already dead before the Chixulub event occurred based on their interpretation of the kinds of fossils found before and after the K-T boundary. This volcanic activity seems to support their conclusions, its always interesting to see how theories are either nailed down or refuted based on new and more precise information.

  • MikeP

    The problem with the Deccan eruption as a cause of the K-T extinction is that it is prolonged (a million years). The causal event cannot have been simultaneously prolonged and sufficiently severe, otherwise taxa such as Mammalia would have gone extinct as well. Changes in the atmosphere caused by the Deccan eruption would have accumulated over generations and species adapt if given enough time. In contrast, an impact of the right size could have led to a much briefer, but more severe shock to ecosystems that could have wiped-out certain taxa, perhaps many with longer generations, while leaving other, more adaptive lineages to inherit what remained.

    There is also the hypothesis that the Deccan traps were caused by the impact. The two pieces of evidence for this are the timing (although now it seems the eruptions preceded impact) and geography (66 mybp the Deccan traps and Chicxulub were close to being on the exact opposite sides of the Earth).

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