New Study Shows Possible Link between Massive Extinctions and Mega Volcanoes
Ever since we first discovered dinosaurs, one lingering question has plagued humans: how did they die? We feel almost certain that humans and these ancient beasts didn’t exist at the same time. There’s ample evidence that shows most of them died off, save the ones that later evolved to become modern birds. In a recent study by Dartmouth College, a new theory points to mega volcanoes.
Of course, it remains a theory, and we’re still not sure how the asteroid that hit the earth is linked to it all. The study refers to how the volcanoes not only scorched the planet with lava, but also how the resulting climate change and smoke suffocated the dinosaurs. Let’s look at the details presented by the college.
Mass extinctions and mega volcanoes
Brenhin Keller is an Assistant Professor of Earth Sciences at Dartmouth College. While most scientists believe an asteroid that hit the planet eliminated dinosaur life, he believes differently. While there’s evidence of the impact at the Chicxulub crater, he doesn’t feel that it caused the final extinction of these ancient beasts.
Instead, Theodore Green says in a new Senior Fellowship thesis, that mega volcanoes were probably the actual cause. While the asteroid certainly killed some life, it’s these massive destructive forces that finally killed them all off.
Theodore Green ’21, left, and Brenhin Keller, right.
Choking the air
The evidence is in what Keller calls flood basalt. It’s when mega volcanoes have a series of massive eruptions that flood large areas, up to several kilometers, with lava and volcanic rock. It can extinguish fauna and flora life with the blink of an eye, devastating the planet in its wake.
Green believes that it’s not only the lava that caused the extinction of dinosaurs but also the resultant carbon dioxide that plumed into the atmosphere. It choked most of the life that couldn’t escape it, while sea life also died from the disruptive effects of the volcano. It also lead to climate change that would lead to the eventual death of all dinosaurs, except those that would evolve into modern birds.
Crunching the numbers
Not happy to just present his theory, Green headed to the Discovery Cluster of Dartmouth College on a Linux computer system. You can read more about the scientific study on the website. The summary is that the timeline of the floor basalt appears to line up with the Cretaceous extinction level event, and it coincides with the other four extinction level events that were also caused by mega volcanoes.
Joseph Canyon shows the result of flood basalt volcanism. Image source
It’s still just a theory
As with most studies related to dinosaurs and their mass extinction, this is still just a theory. Green and Keller are still working on the thesis, hoping to show that the asteroid only played a small part in their ultimate deaths. There’s no reason the two can’t be linked, with the asteroid perhaps causing the volcanic explosions after impact.
We won’t know for sure until we have some hard evidence to hold up the facts. For now, we rely on scientists and professors to work out the details and look for more information as to what could have killed them all off.
Until then, feel free to read our article on dinosaur myths around their extinction.