A new study conducted by the Scientists from University of Florida and University of Michigan has revealed that pre-historic volcanic activity in India had triggered the largest mass extinction on Earth some 66 million years ago, during the Cretaceous Period. The study shows that the combined impacts of volcanic eruptions in India and the impact of an asteroid in Mexico resulted in the mass destruction of the dinosaurs. A new technique called the carbonate clumped isotope paleothermometer was used to analyse the chemical composition of fossil shells in the Antarctic Ocean temperatures by reconstructing them.
The palaeontologists, using the new technique of carbonate clumped isotope paleothermometer, have done the following research:
- The study included the analysis of the isotopic composition of 29 remarkably well-preserved shells of clam-like bivalves, a kind of aquatic mollusc, collected from Antarctica’s Seymour Island.
- The study spans 3.5 million years ranging from near the end of the Cretaceous to the beginning of the Paleogene Period.
- Known as the K-Pg Boundary, constituting the end of the Cretaceous Period and the beginning of the Paleogene Period, it is marked by a physical boundary of a thin band of rocks found in the geological structures all over the world.
The result of the analysis indicates that the temperatures of the Antarctic Ocean rose by 14 deg F approximately, and was linked to two more such documented occurrences in the Cretaceous Period.
- The first such occurrence was volcanic eruptions in the Indian sub-continent, particularly in the Deccan Traps. The Deccan Traps constitute the largest volcanic province in the world, and has the longest lava flow spanning over 1500 km across the Indian sub-continent. The Traps are located in the Deccan Plateau. The study revealed that that last recorded eruption of these volcanoes was approximately 66 million years ago, which coincided with the mass extinction of the creatures in the pre-historic era.
- The second occurrence resulting in the increase in the temperatures of the Antarctic Ocean was the impact of the collision of an asteroid or comet on the Yucatan Peninsula in Mexico. The K-Pg Boundary has similar matter, viz. iridium, which are also found in asteroids, meteorites and comets. Thus, the scientists arrived at the conclusion that an asteroid killed the pre-historic creatures in the Cretaceous Period.
The aforesaid research was recently published in the journal ‘Nature Communications’. Andrea Dutton from the University of Florida said, “It’s quite likely both the volcanism and the asteroid were to blame for the ultimate mass extinction. The Deccan Traps weakened the ecosystems before the asteroid slammed into the Earth – it’s consistent with an idea called the press-pulse hypothesis: a ‘one-two punch’ that proved devastating for life on Earth.”