A huge meteor hit the Earth and set the world on fire. We all think that we know how dinosaurs became extinct. But since we weren’t there to witness it, how do we really know? In 1825, a geologist named George Cuvier looked at the different layers underground and linked them with how old they were. He noted something unusual: dinosaur fossils didn’t exist above a certain layer. This meant that at this point in Earth’s history, dinosaurs ceased to exist. Over the next century, many scientists proposed different hypotheses. Disease, the Earth becoming either too hot or too cold, a supernova, conflict with other species. Climate records disproved some of these hypotheses, greater understanding of evolution disproved others, and fossil registry disproved most of them.
This went on until, in the 1970s, only two theories remained: volcanoes or a meteor impact. The supporters of the volcano’s theory pointed towards the Deccan traps in India: a series of eruptions that were spewing a massive amount of gases into the atmosphere around that time. But volcanoes alone couldn’t explain such a sudden extinction, it would have been too slow. So researchers started looking for evidence of a meteor impact. By 1981, 36 different locations showed much higher concentrations of rare-earth metals at the K-Pg boundary, evidence that supported the meteor hypothesis. That same year, a researcher working for a Mexican oil company proposed a site, located just north of Yucatán as the candidate for the impact. It took over 10 years and several studies to confirm this.
The most recent studies suggest that the meteor was the last straw that triggered a series of events: wildfires, a mega-tsunami and tons of sulphur that were released into the atmosphere, darkening the skies and causing temperatures to drop drastically for months. Even the Deccan traps were affected by this impact, releasing more gases. All this meant dinosaurs were unable to adapt and died.
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