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New Dinosaur Extinction Theory – Blame the Deccan Trappes
New study points finger at Deccan Traps for extinction event
meIn 1980, American scientists Luis and Walter Alvarez published their theory about the collision of an extraterrestrial body with the Earth, which caused a mass extinction that marked the end of the age of reptiles. Discovery of the Chicxulub Crater in the Gulf of Mexico “smoking gun” evidence in the 1990s added credence to this theory put forward by the father and son team.
Recent studies of the asteroid belt that lies between Mars and the outer planets have led one group of scientists to conclude that the fate of the dinosaurs was sealed as early as the Jurassic, when a collision between giant asteroids sent a single giant lump of space rock on a collision course. with Earth.
New evidence from a scientific study
Now, another group of American scientists has challenged the asteroid/meteorite theory, suggesting that massive volcanic eruptions in India caused the demise of the dinosaurs and about 65% of all life on Earth. New studies of the massive basaltic lava flows in western and central India – known as the Deccan Traps – show that the most violent and destructive eruptions date very close to the mass extinction event.
Volcanic activity on this scale would release massive amounts of carbon dioxide and sulfur dioxide into the atmosphere, dramatically altering the world’s climate and causing the collapse of entire ecosystems.
The Deccan Traps is one of the largest volcanic provinces on the planet. The basaltic lava flows, which appeared around 70-65 million years ago, cover an area of more than 500,000 square kilometers, twice the size of the entire United Kingdom. In some parts, the basalt is more than 2 kilometers deep. Plate movements and other tectonic factors broke up the lava deposits, some scientists estimate that volcanic activity at the end of the Cretaceous deposited enough lava to cover 1,500,000 square kilometers – that would cover half of India.
For some time, these massive eruptions have been thought to have a devastating effect on Earth’s climate. In addition to the damage caused by the eruptions themselves, the clouds of smoke and ash would be enormous and disrupt the climate. Sulfur dioxide pumped into the air would cause acid rain, and carbon dioxide and other gases would be toxic to life, causing global warming. This new study, by a US team, dates the most extensive volcanic activity right along the KT border, and the research team published a paper arguing that these eruptions, and not an asteroid impact, caused the wipeout.
The main period of outbreaks was chronologically related to the estimated start date of the extinction phase; during this period, geologists estimate that ten times more climate-changing gases would have been released compared to the Chicxulub impact event. So it was probably volcanic activity that affected Earth’s climate, although a massive extraterrestrial influence couldn’t have come at a worse time and would have added to the environmental chaos. As with other impacts (some scientists believe that two such impacts, only 300,000 years apart, were very close together in geologic time—a true double impact.
Previous dating techniques involved the paleomagnetic signatures of crystals that formed in the lava as it cooled. These showed that the main eruptions occurred about 800,000 years before the geological boundary between the end of the Mesozoic and the beginning of the Cenozoic. More recent studies measuring the radioactive decay of argon and potassium isotopes in lava deposits have placed the peak period of volcanic activity within 300,000 years of the KT boundary. However, there is evidence from tiny marine microfossils that American researchers believe proves that volcanic activity was the direct cause of the mass extinction.
Responsible for the mass extinction event
Scientists believe that shortly after the mass extinction, one of the first signs that ecosystems were beginning to recover was the establishment of new species of planktonic foraminifera (similar to the animals that helped form the White Cliffs of Dover). Analysis of sediments in the Bay of Bengal region of the Deccan Traps has shown that marine sediments were deposited on top of basaltic lava from the most active phase of trap formation. Evidence of foraminiferal microfossils has been found in these marine deposits, indicating that these marine sediments were deposited almost immediately after the extinction event. Therefore, it is logical to conclude that the lava deposits were deposited immediately before the marine deposits around the time of the death of the dinosaurs and the extinction of much of life.
The American team’s contribution has already received the support of many prominent academics from Europe. It was previously presented at the annual meeting of the Geological Society in Denver, and received much comment and criticism. The sheer magnitude of volcanic activity certainly played a role in climate change, but this microfossil study places the worst eruptions right before the mass extinction, as if those eruptions triggered the extinction event.
The US team cited a number of other studies that support their conclusions, stating that their work sheds light on an anomaly that proponents of the Chicxulub impact theory have been unable to resolve. Analysis of other sites around the world along the KT boundary and from sediments deposited thousands of years after the extraterrestrial impact show that life on Earth was very slow to recover. Microfossils do not enter the fossil record for another 300,000 years after the asteroid/meteorite impact. The fact that the marine environment shows no signs of recovery some 300,000 years after the impact can be explained by looking at the lava deposits above the famous Bay of Bengal marine deposits. These younger lava flows formed after the mass extinction, but still caused enough disruption to delay the re-establishment of life on Earth. According to American researchers, the last period of Deccan Trap eruptions occurred in the early Paleocene (Danish fauna) about 280,000 years after the end of the Mesozoic. It was these eruptions that caused a delay in the restoration of life forms and the construction of ecosystems.
Evidence from the fossil record
The fossil record shows that there have been many mass extinctions throughout the history of life on Earth. It is certain that the KT boundary represents a period of dramatic environmental changes. The dual effect of the formation of the Deccan Traps, together with asteroid impacts, would explain the mass extinction, the extinction of non-avian dinosaurs, marine reptiles, pterosaurs, some birds, ancient crocodiles and many species of invertebrates could have been caused by a number of factors. This is not in doubt, what remains controversial is the contribution of each of these factors to the mass extinction.
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