Nation & World

Dinosaurs might not have gone extinct if the asteroid hit elsewhere, scientists claim

FILE - In this April 15, 2014 file photo, a cast of a Tyrannosaurus rex discovered in Montana greets visitors as they enter the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History in Washington.
FILE - In this April 15, 2014 file photo, a cast of a Tyrannosaurus rex discovered in Montana greets visitors as they enter the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History in Washington. AP

More than 60 million years later, we are still piecing together exactly how and why the dinosaurs went extinct.

New calculations by scientists found that if the Chicxulub asteroid struck somewhere else on Earth – in fact, most places on Earth – it may not have triggered the chain of events that killed off dinosaurs.

The latest edition of “Scientific Reports,” published online Thursday, contains an article by scientists Kunio Kaiho and Naga Oshima, who claim that the hydrocarbon-rich areas necessary to cause such an extinction event make up only about 13 percent of Earth’s surface.

In other words, if it had hit any of the other 87 percent, dinosaurs might still be roaming Earth today. This means those extinct species might have survived if the asteroid struck minutes earlier or later, because of the change in impact location.

“The site of asteroid impact, therefore, changed the history of life on Earth,” says the article’s abstract.

As it happened, Chicxulub hit about 66 million years ago in the Yucatan Peninsula of what is now Mexico, striking hydrocarbon- and sulfur-heavy rocks. The impact heated these rocks enough to a trigger a chain reaction causing extreme cooling and drought across Earth, leading to mass extinction of dinosaurs and other life.

“They were unlucky,” Kaiho told The Guardian of the dinosaurs’ fate. Kaiho and Oshima are based out of Tohoku University in Japan, and the former is a professor of paleontology, according to The Guardian.

The dinosaurs’ misfortune is not exactly new information, but new data and findings about the extinction event are unearthed frequently.

An article published in “Geophysical Research Letters” in late October found that the asteroid impact led to a global climate “colder than previously thought.” The journal “Systematic Biology” in September published data supporting the theory that dinosaurs’ extinction indirectly sped up the evolution of birds.

  Comments