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Tuesday, December 11, 2012

What really killed off the Dinosaurs?

It may have been volcanoes:
Tens of thousands of years of lava flow from the Deccan Traps, a volcanic region near Mumbai in present-day India, may have spewed poisonous levels of sulfur and carbon dioxide into the atmosphere and caused the mass extinction through the resulting global warming and ocean acidification, the research suggests.

The findings, presented Wednesday (Dec. 5) here at the annual meeting of the American Geophysical Union, are the latest volley in an ongoing debate over whether an asteroid or volcanism killed off the dinosaurs about 65 million years ago in the mass die-off known as the K-T extinction.
I've been skeptical of the asteroid-strike theory for quite a while.  I may be skeptical of this, too.

15 comments:

bluesun said...

Mmmmm... global warming.

ProudHillbilly said...

Personally, I think it was government bureaucracy.

DaddyBear said...

I kind of like the theory that the asteroid strike and its aftermath were the last straw for the large dinosaurs, and that they had been kind of dwindling off for a long time due to other factors.

John Anderson said...

Maybe the asteroid strike caused the Deccan Traps outflow? The combined effects of both sufficiently disrupted the climate to trigger the extinction event?

wolfwalker said...

So do I, DaddyBear. There is a very long list of "reasons the dinosaurs went extinct" that have been suggested over the last century or so, from the manifestly ridiculous ("it was time for them to go") to the merely unlikely ("mammals ate all their eggs") to the plausible. But I don't think we'll ever find The Reason The Dinosaurs All Died, because there almost certainly wasn't just one reason they all died. It was probably a combination of factors, and the asteroid impact only finished them off.

The fact that the K-T extinction correlates with the Deccan Trap eruptions means little by itself. It could be coincidence, and vague speculation about outgassing and 'ocean acidification' don't change that. But when you add the fact that two other major extinctions (terminal Permian and terminal Triassic) also correlate with huge flood-basalt eruptions (Siberian Traps and Central Atlantic Magmatic Province respectively), for a total of three out of the five great mass extinctions ... that seems more than coincidence. We may not know the mechanism yet, but there definitely seems to be some kind of connection there.

Erin Palette said...

Want to break people's brains?

Argue that the Chicxulub asteroid was Lucifer falling from Heaven and being cast into Hell.

It's fun watching them try to embrace the notion that someone can believe in Creationism and dinosaurs simultaneously. ;)

Old NFO said...

Meh... Single point failure mechanism AGAIN??? Damn, why can't people get a grip on the fact that it just 'might' have been a combination of issues???

Brigid said...

Personally I think the Dinosaurs were stuck in the United concourse at Dulles on a long layover.

Mrs. S. said...

Well, let's see. Asteroid collision cracked the earth like an egg. Cataclysmic continental breakage and drift, volcanoes erupting, massive flooding and gee, t-rex and other dinosaurs were at a severe disadvantage when it came to doing the doggy paddle.

Tis a funny either/or argument like when at thanksgiving you ask guests if they want pumpkin or apple pie, they usually answer yes.

Roscoe said...

Don't feel bad. It's a scientific hypothesis. You're supposed to be skeptical.

Anonymous said...

John Anderson has a point. I've seen a few articles and one book pointing out that the Deccan Traps, the Siberian Traps, a hotspot in the Indian Ocean, and the Yellowstone hotspot could easily be the results of asteroid strikes. Which starts the chain reactions that lead to the demise of [insert ecosystem or species here].

LittleRed1

Angus McThag said...

Check out the Dinosaur Heresies. Excellent book for skeptics about a single point of failure for the K-T extinction.

TOTWTYTR said...

Gary Larson said that it was cigarettes. Which ironically is sort of close to this theory.
Toxic fumes and all.

Borepatch said...

Angus, I love that book. Highly recommended. I find Dr. Baaker's hypothesis of what killed the dinos to be highly plausible.

Windy Wilson said...

Is Dinosaur Heresies where someone discusses how the dinosaurs became extinct along about the time the continents came together and they were able to travel about easily and spread diseases to each other more easily? A sort of Columbus Exchange without a red-headed Genoese sailor, pumpkins, corn, tomatoes and potatoes.