More than likely, you were taught that the dinosaurs were wiped out by a large asteroid that crashed into the Gulf of Mexico 65 million years ago. Now, one Princeton University professor is rejecting that notion, arguing her research team has uncovered the first piece of evidence demonstrating how massive volcanic eruptions in India may have led to the mass extinction.
Gerta Keller, the geosciences professor, was also part of another team that found traces of at least one meteoric strike that could have finished off any remaining species. Keller’s work was inspired by the studies of Vincent Courtillot, a geophysicist in France who found that the eruptions occurred in three phases. The second phase, according to Courillot, occurred at the same time as the mass extinction. Just 30 years ago, Virginia Tech geologist Dewey McLean was the first to propose that the eruptions were linked to the dinosaurs’ demise.
Keller argues that volcanoes spewed carbon dioxide and sulfur dioxide, causing acid rain and extreme temperatures that made the world uninhabitable.
“The acid rain will kill its food source, and the animals — because they are ingesting contaminated plants with all these acids — they will die a horrible death,” said Keller, whose team of researchers published a report on the topic this month in the Journal of the Geological Society of India.
Keller and her team drilled two miles into the lava flows of the Deccan Traps, a volcanic range in western Indian that used to be about three times the size of France. According to the researchers, the layers showed a number of plankton species which dwindled over thousands of years before the extinction.