Science News 2015: Researchers Propose New Theory About Extinction Event that Wiped Out the Dinosaurs

(Photo : Wikimedia Commons / National Science Foundation, Zina Deretsky / CC)

It is widely believed that the extinction of the dinosaurs was caused by a massive explosion from a gigantic asteroid that hit Earth over 60 million years ago.

However, other scientific groups argue that the extinction event was actually triggered by a series of volcanic eruptions.

Recently, a study conducted by a team of researchers from the University of California, Berkley, revealed that these two factors may have worked together in wiping out the dinosaurs and almost 70 percent of Earth's species, the Washington Post reported.

According to the researchers, the huge impact caused by the mountain-sized asteroid with a diameter of 10 kilometers may have triggered a series of volcanic eruptions in different parts of the world. This could have resulted in increased lava flow and the emission of harmful gasses in the atmosphere.

As detailed in the researchers' report, the asteroid crashed at Mexico's Yucatan peninsula. The impact was dubbed as Chicxulub, named after the town in the region. At the same time, over at India, lava was already flowing at the rock formation known as Deccan Traps.

Although this clearly shows that volcanic eruptions have already begun even before Chicxulub impact occurred, the researchers believe these intensified even more after the asteroid crash.

The impact, which produced more energy than a billion of the Hiroshima nuclear bombs, generated massive magnitude 9 to 11 earthquakes around the globe. The violent movement caused fractures in the Earth's surface and provided pathways for lava to flow out.

The expanding gasses in the magma then formed into bubbles and led to numerous explosions.

Through radioactive dating methods conducted on the Deccan Traps, the researchers were able to discover that the rise in volcanic eruptions occurred 50,000 years after the asteroid crashed on Earth.

Paul Renne, lead author of the study and a geologist from UC Berkeley, explained that the combination of the Chicxulub impact and the volcanic eruptions caused immediate die-offs among animals at that time and prevent Earth's prehistoric ecosystem from recovering for over 500,000 years.

"The biodiversity and chemical signature of the ocean took about half a million years to really recover, which is about how long the accelerated volcanism lasted," he said according to The Guardian.

"Our data don't conclusively prove that the impact caused these changes, but the connection looks increasingly clear."

If the researchers' findings are true, then these could provide an explanation that will resolve the opposing scientific views regarding the mass extinction millions of years ago.

The study conducted by Renne and his team was published in the academic journal Science.

Tags dinosaurs, Extinction, Earth, Asteroid, Volcano, Science, Discovery, Study

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