More than 65 million years ago, an asteroid which was up to 10 miles wide (16 km) came crashing into Earth, ultimately putting an end to the dinosaurs’ reign. However, some experts believe the dinosaurs’ dominance was gradually coming to an end thousands of years before the asteroid collision, known as the K-Pg event, as major volcanic activity around the globe contributed to drastic climate change.
The cause of the unexpected spike in CO2 was likely due to long-term eruptions from the Deccan Traps, a 200,000-square-mile volcanic province located in modern India.
The asteroid impact was likely just the final nail in the coffin, as it created a climate catastrophe which saw temperatures plummet for thousands of years after the event.
But now a team of experts argue volcanic activity around the globe could have helped limit the damage done by the asteroid strike, ultimately helping life to fully recover following the extinction event.
By running hundreds of climate simulations, a team from Yale University found the climate change caused by the asteroid collision – which saw tons of debris ploughed into Earth’s orbit – was offset by volcanic activity, which allowed the oceans to absorb carbon dioxide.
The team wrote in the study published in the journal Science: “We found support for major outgassing beginning and ending distinctly before the impact, with only the impact coinciding with mass extinction and biologically amplified carbon cycle change.
“Our models show that these extinction-related carbon cycle changes would have allowed the ocean to absorb massive amounts of carbon dioxide, thus limiting the global warming otherwise expected from post-extinction volcanism.”
According to the study, life was ultimately able to recover quicker than expected after the asteroid strike.
The team stated: “Deccan volcanism might have contributed to shaping [the rise of Cenozoic species and communities] during the extinction aftermath.”
The theory is still subject to debate as to exactly how long the dinosaurs managed to survive after the initial impact.
Previous research from the University of Berkley, California, believes there is evidence to suggest non-avian dinosaurs survived around 30,000 years afterwards, and they eventually went extinct due to the 100,000 years of drastic climate change caused by the impact.
Others, however, believe the beasts died out in a matter of months, with palaeontologist Ken Lacovara previously saying: “They died suddenly and were buried quickly.
“It tells us this is a moment in geological time. That’s days, weeks, maybe months.
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“But this is not thousands of years; it’s not hundreds of thousands of years. This is essentially an instantaneous event.”
However, the dinosaurs’ loss was humanity’s gain.
With no large predators, small mammals comparable to rodents began to thrive, which eventually led to the evolution of humans millions of years down the line.
Alice Roberts, presenter of the hit BBC documentary The Day the Dinosaurs Died, said: “Chances are, if it wasn’t for that asteroid we wouldn’t be here today.”
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