A Dino Apocalypse
By Shanuka Kadupitiyage Ceylon Today Features
Last week, we discussed a little about the events that happened in the past that made dinosaurs go extinct while learning about the many reptiles that ruled the deep blue sea many millions of years ago. For hundreds of millions of years, dinosaurs and other reptiles ruled the Earth. But something changed all that, and mammals took over the world.
For many years, scientists wondered how this happened. Searching for answers, they discovered that nearly 65 million years ago, there was a mass extinction event where a huge number of ancient species that lived on land and the sea were completely wiped out, including the dinosaurs. This was called the K-T extinction event. While they knew that this happened, scientists did not know how it happened. Scientists had various theories on what triggered this extinction event. Some were very convincing, while others didn’t make a lot of sense. But no one could prove that their theory was right. It wasn’t until Nobel Prize winning physicist Luis Alvarez and his son Walter Alvarez that a solid theory for explaining what triggered the K-T extinction was given, with proof.
Out of this world
It all started when the two were conducting research on geology in Italy and discovered that there was a layer of clay that had a lot of iridium in it. This is very interesting, because Iridium is a very rare element on Earth, but there’s a lot of it in space. Also, they found out that this layer of clay fit well into the time when the K-T extinction happened. They figured that this iridium came from an asteroid or meteor that might have crashed into the Earth, and that this could have also led to the dinosaurs going extinct. Not everyone believed it though. Many scientists made fun of what Alvarez was saying. But scientists continued to find more proof of this theory. Now all that remained was to find the meteor crash that started it all.
The final puzzle piece
All that was needed to prove the theory was to find actual evidence of a meteor big enough to cause such an event, and they did. In 1991, a crater was found in the Yucatan Peninsula, which was near the Gulf of Mexico that was nearly 180 kilometres across. Now called the Chicxulub crater, scientists believe that it was created because of an asteroid or meteor around 10 kilometres in diameter crashing into the Earth around 65 million years ago, exactly when the K-T extinction happened.
After the crash
Scientists say that the crash released so much heat that the surface of the Earth would have been scorched. Forests would have burned over, and blackened the sky with smoke, dust and ash. The shock wave would have also caused Earthquakes to happen everywhere in the world and also trigger tsunamis the size of skyscrapers. With all this happening, the environment of the planet would have changed dramatically, and food would have been hard to find, even years afterwards. Even if some dinosaurs survived, without food, it was only a matter of time. Smaller animals, like tiny mammals would have had the best chance of surviving such an event, and after the dinosaurs, it would finally be their time to rule the planet.
Still a theory
The Iridium as well as the Chicxulub crater was enough to convince a lot of scientists that this is what actually happened, but we still don’t know for sure if this was what started it all. We still don’t know everything about the dinosaurs, and you never know what new scientific discovery in the future is around the corner. Maybe there’s another explanation. The answers are out there. We just have to keep searching.