The life of Dinosaurs 6

Sunday, July 25, 2010

The asteroid collision theory, which was brought to wide attention in 1980 by Walter Alvarez and colleagues, links the dinosaurs extinction event at the end of the Cretaceous period to a bolide impact approximately 65.5 million years ago. Alvarez et al.

Proposed that a sudden increase in iridium levels, recorded around the world in the period's rock stratum, was direct evidence of the impact. The bulk of the evidence now suggests that a 5 to 15 kilometer (3 to 9 mi) wide bolide hit in the vicinity of the Yucat√°n Peninsula, creating the 170 kilometers (110 mi) wide Chicxulub Crater and triggering the mass extinction.

Scientists are not certain whether dinosaurs were thriving or declining before the impact event. Some scientists propose that the meteorite caused a long and unnatural drop in Earth's atmospheric temperature, while others claim that it would have instead created an unusual heat wave.

Although the speed of extinction cannot be deduced from the fossil record alone, various models suggest that the extinction was extremely rapid. The consensus among scientists who support this theory is that the impact caused extinctions both directly (by heat from the meteorite impact) and also indirectly (via a worldwide cooling brought about when matter ejected from the impact crater reflected thermal radiation from the sun).


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