How Did Dinosaurs Die? (Extinction History)

Dinosaur's Extinction

Hello, dinosaur detectives and prehistoric puzzle solvers! Have you ever gazed at the skeletal remains of dinosaurs in a museum and pondered the cataclysmic events that led to their disappearance? The story of how dinosaurs died is not just a tale of extinction but a dramatic chapter in Earth’s history that has fascinated scientists and enthusiasts alike for generations. We’re going on a journey back in time, over 65 million years ago, to uncover the mysteries behind the demise of these magnificent creatures.

The age of dinosaurs is called the Mesozoic. Dinosaurs ruled the earth for more than a hundred and fifty million years. Around 65 million years ago, their reign ended forever. There are countless theories about the agent of such destruction, from caterpillars eating all the plants and leaving nothing for the herbivores.

A sudden decrease in sexual activity meant no dinosaur babies were born. Even the detonation of a nearby supernova emits deadly radiation across the globe. There are many theories about how dinosaurs died. Although some of the rocks point to long-term environmental changes, like vast global volcanic eruptions that contributed to their decline, some of the evidence in the rocks points to long-term environmental changes. Most of us will have heard that a sudden asteroid impact finished them.

Scientists say that the rate of animal extinction over the past 200 years is rapidly approaching the rate at which dinosaurs, marine reptiles, and pterosaurs disappeared 66 million years ago. Now, starting with a common ancestor of all tetrapods, amphibians branched off first, then mammals, followed by turtles, lizards, and snakes.

Then, the group we call archosaurs. It contains crocodilians, pterosaurs, and, finally, dinosaurs. Scientists know that 22 types of dinosaurs lived in Hell Creek, including triceratops, tyrannosaurs, and this duck-bill, some 9 meters or 30 feet long. The more complete the skeleton, the easier it is to reconstruct the past.

From asteroid impacts to volcanic eruptions and climatic changes, we’ll explore the leading theories and the latest discoveries that shed light on this ancient enigma. Whether you’re a fervent paleontologist at heart, a lover of natural history, or simply curious about the fate of these colossal beings, this exploration promises to be as enlightening as it is thrilling. So, let’s dust off our adventurer’s hats and delve into the prehistoric puzzle of how dinosaurs met their untimely end.

What Killed the Dinosaurs?

According to the most common theory, the mass extinction of dinosaurs was triggered by the fall of a huge asteroid or comet. A recent explanation suggests that dinosaurs went extinct after a huge meteorite crashed into Earth near the Gulf of Mexico.

A big meteorite could have landed with lots of debris and dust and blocked sunlight for an extended period. Due to this, many deadly events started. All the plants died without the sun’s rays. Without the plants, all the plant-eaters died. Traveling 20 times faster than a bullet, a chunk of rock is more than twice Mount Everest’s size.

It left a crater 150 kilometers wide and more than 30 kilometers deep, spreading a layer of asteroid-rich debris worldwide. The collision would have released a billion times more energy than World War II atomic bombs. Because traveling through the vacuum of space, it would have slammed into the Earth’s atmosphere at 80,000 kilometers per hour. As it gets closer to the planet, the earth’s gravitational pull gets stronger, causing the asteroid to accelerate at high speed.

How did Dinosaurs die?

The extinction of dinosaurs approximately 66 million years ago is widely believed to have been caused by a catastrophic event known as the Cretaceous-Paleogene (K-Pg) extinction event. The leading theory suggests that this event was triggered by the impact of a large asteroid or comet and the subsequent environmental changes it caused. Here’s an overview of how dinosaurs may have died out:

Impact Event: The most widely accepted hypothesis is that a massive asteroid, estimated to be about 10 kilometers (6 miles) in diameter, collided with the Earth near the Yucatan Peninsula in Mexico. This impact released an immense amount of energy, causing widespread devastation.

Immediate Effects: The impact led to immediate and catastrophic consequences. It generated a massive shockwave that triggered earthquakes and volcanic activity. The impactor vaporized upon impact, releasing tremendous heat and ejecting debris into the atmosphere.

Atmospheric Effects: The impact also caused significant environmental changes. The ejected material, including dust, soot, and gases, rose high into the atmosphere, blocking sunlight and leading to a global decrease in temperature. This phenomenon is often referred to as an impact winter or nuclear winter. The reduced sunlight disrupted photosynthesis, severely impacting plant life and subsequently affecting herbivorous dinosaurs.

Climate Change: The combination of the impact of winter and subsequent global cooling led to long-term climate disruption. The altered atmospheric composition and reduced sunlight persisted for months to years, resulting in a drop in temperature and a prolonged period of darkness. This had a cascading effect on ecosystems, disrupting food chains and causing widespread extinctions.

Other Factors: While the impact event is considered the primary cause of the mass extinction, other factors may have contributed to the decline of dinosaurs. During the late Cretaceous period, such as the Deccan Traps in present-day India, Volcanic activity released massive amounts of lava and gases, potentially exacerbating the already occurring environmental changes. Additionally, changes in sea level and habitat loss could have further stressed dinosaur populations.

As the asteroid encounters the atmosphere, friction turns it into a fireball. It takes four minutes to cross the Atlantic Ocean towards Mexico. It crushes and superheats the air surrounding it as it travels, turning gas and debris into white-hot plasma at around 20000 degrees Celsius.

The asteroid’s trajectory is shallow. It flies in at about a 30-degree angle to the surface. It means the full brunt of its destructive power will be thrown forward at the impact point. Even before the fireball touches down, its brightness in the sky is unimaginable. The asteroid hits with an explosive force of 100 trillion metric tons.

Some force would have been absorbed if the asteroid had crashed into the deep ocean. Instead, it hits the shallow waters of the Gulf of Mexico, which instantly vaporize. The entire asteroid disintegrates into the planet in a fraction of a second. Earth and rock are hurled skyward at one hundred and sixty thousand kilometers an hour. Behind them, more than 300000 cubic kilometers of the earth’s crust explode from the ground.

  • Eight hundred kilometers from the crash site, the air temperature reaches 300 degrees Celsius. It is so hot that the water and the dinosaur skin boil, escaping in bursts of steam. The fiery blast sucks every drop of moisture from the surrounding vegetation. Anything directly exposed to the blistering heat is burned alive like a giant dinosaur.

The shock wave would have obliterated everything in its path. Fires would have been started across the Americas as molten rock drained from the sky, and vast tsunamis swamped coastal areas worldwide. These immediate effects would have been catastrophic on a scale the Earth has never seen since.

  • The ash dust and gases like sulfur dioxide thrown into the atmosphere blocked out the Sun, causing freezing temperatures for years afterward. With drastically reduced sunlight, plants couldn’t vote a synthesized, so they died in their masses. With no food, the herbivores soon followed, and the carnivores that relied on the plant eaters also went hungry and died.

Meanwhile, the sulfur dioxide dissolved into rainwater, turning the oceans inhospitably acidic. At the peak of their dominance, at least 2,000 species of dinosaurs roamed the earth with a wide range of shapes, sizes, and lifestyles. Within 10,000 years, they had all. But they disappeared in a catastrophic mass extinction along with three-quarters of all life on Earth.

A vast mass of pulverized debris would have been blasted into space, some of it orbiting the Earth before raining back down. The debris may have blocked out the sun for months. The crater might never have been found if the asteroid had landed in the ocean. Even so, a trail of debris, ejecta, would still be blasted from the crater.

  • If an asteroid 10 kilometers across landed in the sea or at the continent’s edge, it would displace incredible amounts of rock and water, causing tsunamis over 100 meters high. These giant waves would have crossed the sea with the speed of a jet, ripping up the seafloor and moving tons of sediment.

Within 1,000 kilometers of the impact, death came quickly. Death may have been delayed for dinosaurs further away, but not for long. Soon, vaporized ejecta and smoke from fires filled the air. Photosynthesis would have stopped. Plants, plant-eaters, and then meat-eaters would have died.

This was the asteroid impact hypothesis for how the Mesozoic era ended. When the Alvarez hypothesis was first proposed, it was difficult for many scientists to accept. Now, they hear a proposal that something could come from outer space and rewrite the history of life.

How long did it take for the dinosaurs to die after the asteroid? There is much discussion over the actual kill mechanism and how long that period lasted. Depending on the situation and place, it would take one day, month, or year. Many dinosaurs would have died within weeks. The carnivores feasted on the herbivores would have died a month later.

That debris came to rest in what, today, is the Brazos River basin. It would have mixed with ejecta falling from the sky. Geologist Jan Smit discovered glass-like beads in K/T boundaries called spherules formed when vaporized rock cools and rains back down. Another key clue was the rock that had been so shocked by the impact. It had crisscrossing bands of dislocated mineral that shocked quartz.

Dinosaurs were in good company as ammonites, giant marine reptiles, and 90% of mammals of the time met their end together. Smaller mammals and cold-blooded reptiles needed less food. A chance adaptation to eating seeds before.

The impact was a stroke of luck for a few dinosaurs with plants and mates suddenly gone, and seeds would have been a more lasting food source. A small group of dinosaurs with beaks were among the few that could eat them. That group made it through the toughest of times and diversified. Once, they became the modern dinosaurs that walk among us today. We know them as birds.

Scientists found a layer in rocks called the K-PG boundary. It is rich in Iridium. Iridium isn’t found on the Earth’s surface but is abundant in asteroids. It was proving that an asteroid had crashed into the earth. It caused large rocks to blast into the air and fall back as molten rocks.

More Reasons for Dinosaur Extinction

Supervolcanic eruptions spewed lava, dust, soot, and various atmospheric gases. It triggered a drastic climate change, slowly reducing the dinosaur count. In ancient times, natural disasters happened much more often than they do today. At some points, they end the whole race of giant reptiles. Significant asteroid impacts on Earth could send seismic waves, causing supervolcanic eruptions. It helped wipe out the dinosaurs and other creatures.

Some research suggests heavy lava flow from the Deccan Traps in western India may have spewed poisonous levels of carbon dioxide and sulfur into the atmosphere and cost the extinction. Several paleontologists say they did suffer from diseases like parasites, fever-specific allergic reactions, and bone infections. Dinosaurs and mammals evolved during a similar period. Maybe mammals destroyed or ate the eggs of dinosaurs, driving them to extinction.

Ice age

Several paleontologists suggest an ice age could have frozen water, and dinosaurs could not survive. They slowly died out. However, scientists have no evidence of an ice age occurring during the life of the dinosaurs. A team from Holland and Italy discovered fossilized cold water plankton that dates back 65 million years in an area previously warm in Tunisia. The fossils indicate that something suddenly made the water cold enough to support the tiny creatures.

A meteor strike may have produced vast quantities of sulfate particles, such as those blown into the atmosphere during a volcanic eruption. These particles would have shielded the Earth’s surface from sunlight. The decrease in solar energy would have caused a prolonged cold spell called impact winter. So, the ice age may have been the method of extinction.

Volcano theory

The supervolcano theory argues that the asteroid impact was merely a prelude to many volcanic eruptions in India’s area named the Deccan Traps. Researchers have discovered four separate waves of explosions that released vast clouds of sulfur dioxide into the air, bringing acid rain showers.

These waves are estimated to have occurred around 65 million years ago. Geophysicists argue that the asteroid impact could not have kicked up enough dust to cause global climate change. With each pulse, the supervolcanoes may have dispersed 150 billion tonnes of sulfur dioxide.

Geologist Gerta Keller states that most species disappeared after the initial pulse. By the fourth flow, the extinction would have been complete. The supervolcano theory is the biggest challenger to the classic impact theory.

Food chain imbalances

The food chain imbalance led to the dinosaurs’ starvation and may cost them their death. Most paleontologists believe that birds and crocodiles are the only surviving dinosaurs. So they aren’t extinct because their descendants are still living, but there is no solid evidence. Disease and starvation are other theories.

Some scientists believed a great plague decimated the dinosaur population. Then, it spread to the animals that feasted on their carcasses. Starvation was another possibility: Large dinosaurs required vast amounts of food and could have stripped bare all the vegetation in their habitat.

What happened after the dinosaurs died?

In 2014, when the scientists first visited Coral Bluffs, a fossil site near Colorado Springs, they were not impressed. After finding nothing new, the researchers decided to return a few months later. That’s when they made a historic discovery.

Mellor and License found that this place has a unique sequence of remains of different animals and plants that lived on Earth during the first million years after the death of the dinosaurs. Scientists had to pay more attention to the so-called concretions. These are clusters of rocks that form around organic materials, including bones.

When Licen and Miller turned their attention to these geological formations, everything started coming along. Scientists found entire skulls and, in some cases, the skeletons of mammals and, next to them, fossilized plants. Researchers have excavated about 7,000 fossils, which are lined up in chronological sequence. The ash layers from nearby volcanoes found by scientists played a great role in this.

Voluntary ash contains radioactive minerals that store information about the changes in the earth’s magnetic fields. Thus, the discovery became something like a natural clock for scientists. They told geologists about the rapid changes in the ecosystem since the asteroid’s fall 66 million years ago.

The first million years

As one might expect, the first million years after the asteroid, the planet recovered from the catastrophe it had to ensure. Not surprisingly, since about 75% of all fauna and 50% of all flora died, they quickly recovered. At first, they were pretty primitive plants and animals on the planet. Nevertheless, soon, the flora began to become more and more diversified.

Tiny mammals started to increase in size slowly following the development of plants. This is an example of how mammal populations changed dramatically and rapidly at the time. It’s known that only small animals weighing no more than half a kilogram survived the asteroid’s fall.

After 1000 years

It is possible to establish that mammals the size of a raccoon began to appear on Earth a hundred thousand years later. That’s about five or six kilograms of waste and ferns replaced by palm trees. It is known as the Palm period by the end of the next 200,000 years.

Walnut trees began to appear on Earth. At the same time, mammalian diversity on the planet increased threefold. They were now species with a nut-based diet. Some animals that emerged at that time weighed up to 25 kilograms.

After 700 years

Seven hundred years after the great extinction, they were already leguminous plants rich in protein on earth. This influenced the development of fauna. Mammals weighed up to 50 kilograms. A predatory animal looks like a wolf or a bear with hooves instead of claws.

According to scientists, the atmosphere’s temperature increased by five degrees Celsius. The higher it rose, the more developed and diverse the plants and animals inhabiting the planet became. But why is this research necessary? It proves that the dinosaurs’ extinction was indeed primarily caused by the fall of a specific celestial body. Reconstructs in detail the chronology of the world’s rebirth after this catastrophe.

Scientists have concluded that the extinction of giant animals, especially dinosaurs, ultimately positively impacted biodiversity. If it hadn’t been for the asteroid disaster, perhaps our planet would never have been home to many different mammals. A thousand years after the asteroid, the number of plants and animals on the earth remained the same.

Three hundred thousand years later, the planet was more diverse than before the catastrophe. About 700 thousand years later, completely new species of animals appeared. After the asteroid’s fall, it took mammals ten million years to reach the size of modern bison or antelopes finally. Nature indeed has amazing abilities for self-regeneration, but these processes take hundreds of thousands of years.

We’ve traversed the boundary of time to explore the catastrophic events that reshaped the course of life on Earth, from the chilling impact of asteroids to the smoldering fury of volcanic eruptions. This exploration into the past has not only unraveled the mysteries of an ancient extinction but also offered us valuable insights into the fragility and resilience of life itself.

As we bid farewell to the age of dinosaurs, let’s carry forward the lessons learned from their extinction, reminded of the interconnectedness of all life and the importance of preserving the delicate balance of our planet. Thank you for joining me on this epic journey through time and discovery. Until our next adventure into the mysteries of Earth’s past, keep your curiosity alive, your imagination wild, and your spirit of exploration undiminished. The story of life is far from over, and every fossil tells a tale waiting to be uncovered.

More Articles:

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How To Bring Back Extinct Animals?

Why Did Megalodon Go Extinct?

How Plants Caused First Mass Extinction?

What Are The Functions Of Evolution?


Ferigolo, Jorge; Langer, Max. “A Late Triassic dinosauriform from south Brazil and the origin of the ornithischian predentary bone.” Historical Biology.
Langer, Max C.; Ferigolo, Jorge. “The Late Triassic dinosauromorph Sacisaurus agudoensis (Caturrita Formation; Rio Grande do Sul, Brazil): anatomy and affinities.” Geological Society, London, Special Publications.
Cabreira, S.F.; Kellner, A.W.A.; “A Unique Late Triassic Dinosauromorph Assemblage Reveals Dinosaur Ancestral Anatomy and Diet.” Current Biology.
Renne, Paul R.; Deino, Alan L.; Hilgen. “Time scales of critical events around the Cretaceous-Paleogene boundary.”

Julia Rose

My name is Julia Rose. I'm a registered clinical therapist, researcher, and coach. I'm the author of this blog. There are also two authors: Dr. Monica Ciagne, a registered psychologist and motivational coach, and Douglas Jones, a university lecturer & science researcher.I would love to hear your opinion, question, suggestions, please let me know. We will try to help you.

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