We all learned it in middle school and watched it in endless movies. The dinosaurs went extinct in some huge blast from some ginormous asteroid. Or did they actually die from a series of supervolcanic eruptions? Or was it both?! OK. So the issue’s not that determined. It’s actually one of the most scientifically debated issues in scientific history. But a recent study may have put an end to either and both of these widely acknowledged theories.
In a study published by the journal Proceedings of the National Academics of Science, scientists develop an old yet refurbished theory about how the dinosaurs may have actually died out. According to these scientists, the dinosaurs had been dying out slowly for millions of years before the last stand against the asteroid or the series of volcanic eruptions.
Since the discovery of the Chicxulub crater off of Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula in 1980, scientists have been firm about the dinosaurs going extinct by the hands of an asteroid… or so to speak. Also, during the same period, scientists were studying the remains of the widespread volcanic activity at the time of the dinosaurs, called the Deccan traps. Both these theories seemed feasible as they happened at the same moment in time that the dinosaurs disappeared from Earth, about 66 million years ago. And yet, the most recent published study contradicts both these theories, by assuming that the dinosaurs were not a perfectly healthy lot that got suddenly wiped out, but were a sickly dying lot that got the final blast from said asteroid or volcanoes.
Now these scientists studied the number of dinosaur species that was around before the KT-extinction at each age or time interval in history. While this isn’t a very statistical method, it is quite revealing. The scientists noticed that new dinosaur species were on the rise in the Triassic and Jurassic ages. Then, in the Cretaceous age, the species fell into a plateau. Finally, during the late-Cretaceous age, the species witnessed a very sharp decline, with some going extinct at a faster rate than newer species were emerging. Hence, it is quite possible that dinosaurs were declining in numbers for millions of year before the Chicxulub crater.
Of course, this decline was due to the fact that these huge reptiles were vulnerable to drastic environmental changes, such as the prolonged period of volcanism, the Earth entering a long lasting cooling phase, and the split of the supercontinent Pangea. And if we were to consider the newest theory as a viable one, it puts our current state of life into morbid perspective. In our current state, more species than ever before have gone extinct or face the threat of it every single day. So, it is quite disturbing to compare our prospects to the fate of the dinosaurs.