Volcanic Eruptions Killed Dinosaurs?

Article excerpt

A series of monumental volcanic eruptions in India may have killed the dinosaurs 65 million years ago, not a meteor impact in the Gulf of Mexico. The eruptions, which created the gigantic Deccan Traps lava beds of India (see photo, p. 24), are now the prime suspect in the most famous and persistent paleontological murder mystery, say scientists who have conducted a slew of new investigations honing down eruption timing.

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"It is the first time we can directly link the main phase of the Deccan Traps to the mass extinction," says Princeton University paleontologist Gerta Keller. The main phase of the Deccan eruptions spewed 80% of the lava, which spread out for hundreds of miles. It is calculated to have released 10 times more climate-altering gases into the atmosphere than the nearly concurrent Chicxulub meteor impact, according to volcanologist Vincent Courtillot from the Physique du Globe de Paris.

Keller's crucial link between the eruption and the mass extinction comes in the form of microscopic marine fossils that are known to have evolved immediately after the mysterious mass extinction event. The same telltale fossilized planktonic foraminifera were found at Rajahmundry near the Bay of Bengal, about 1,000 km from the center of the Deccan Traps near Mumbai. …