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For a long time, it has been widely believed that the extinction of dinosaurs was caused by an asteroid collision. However, new research suggests that another factor may have had a more significant role than previously assumed.
Around 66 million years ago, a meteor with a diameter of 10 to 15 kilometers hit Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula. This event resulted in widespread destruction, triggering fires, earthquakes, and massive tsunamis. As a result, the ecosystem collapsed, leading to the decline of plants and animals.
According to a recent study in Nature Geoscience, scientists argue that previous research has overlooked the potential damage caused by trillions of tons of dust being catapulted into the atmosphere during the asteroid impact. This overlooked factor may have had a significant impact on hundreds of dinosaur species.
The scientists from Belgium theorize that the asteroid triggered a “worldwide winter” by creating dense clouds of silicate dust and sulphur in the atmosphere. These clouds were believed to have blocked the sun’s rays, resulting in a significant decrease in global surface temperature, possibly up to 15 degrees Celsius.
The scarcity of light would have made it difficult for plants to survive, leading to starvation among herbivores. This would have left the carnivores without prey and resulted in a significant decrease of 75% of species throughout the food chain.
Scientists estimate that the volume of dust suffocating the air is approximately 2,000 gigatonnes, which is over eleven times the mass of Mount Everest.
Scientists conducted computer simulations using sediment samples from a fossil site in North Dakota. The results showed that the sediment could have caused a two-year-long period of sunlight blockage and remained in the atmosphere for 15 years. This would have hindered photosynthesis in plants and led to the collapse of the natural ecosystem.
According to the research, the asteroid did not immediately cause the extinction of dinosaurs, but rather gradually led to their demise over a period of several years.
Some scientists suggest that the consequences of the asteroid’s impact would be similar to those of a nuclear bomb hitting Earth.
Last year, a report was released by Louisiana State University Professor Cherly Harrison and her team, predicting that the release of smoke and black carbon would result in a “Nuclear Little Ice Age” by blocking the sun’s rays in the atmosphere.
Although the dinosaurs perished in a catastrophic event approximately 66 million years ago, their extinction may have played a significant role in the evolution of humanity.
According to Philippe Claeys, co-author of the study and planetary scientist, dinosaurs were thriving on Earth until a meteorite struck.
“Excluding the influence, I speculate that mammals, including humans, had a slim opportunity to emerge as the dominant species on Earth.”