Researchers have debated for decades what caused the dinosaur extinction. A space rock about 10 kilometers wide that struck Mexico’s Yucatan region is often blamed for the mass extinction of dinosaurs about 66 million years ago. However, a new study says it was a combination of catastrophes that caused the dinosaur doom. The giant asteroid strike was immediately followed by a vast volcanic eruption about 15,000 kilometers away from Mexico, in India.
The asteroid impact intensified volcanoes in India
Scientists led by Paul Renne of the University of California, Berkeley said the two events were closely related. Findings of the study were published Thursday in the journal Science. They concluded that the asteroid strike occurred 66.04 million years ago. Meanwhile, volcanic eruptions in Deccan Traps in western India were already underway, albeit at a lower intensity.
The lava eruptions increased dramatically after the asteroid strike in Mexico. Drexel University volcanologist Loÿc Vanderkluysen said the asteroid strike and acceleration in eruptions were simultaneous. And the volcanic activity did more lasting damage to dinosaurs than the impact itself. Scientists estimate that the impact could have created seismic energy equal to an Earthquake measuring 11 on the Richter scale. Such a massive Earthquake could send shock waves back and forth through the planet.
Dinosaur extinction paved the way for mammals
Paul Renne said the two events in tandem caused the dinosaur extinction. You can’t dismiss one or the other catastrophe. They happened at the same time and both contributed to one of Earth’s worst mass extinctions. The volcanic eruptions in Deccan Traps were the largest “the Earth had seen in 60 million years.”
The volcanic eruptions lasted 420,000 years after the asteroid impact. They spewed enough lava to cover the entire United States 600 feet deep. What followed was centuries of climate change, acid rains, and ocean acidification. The dinosaur extinction paved the way for mammals. That means humans wouldn’t be here if dinosaurs were not wiped out.