Dinosaur Extinction and the End of an Era: What the Fossils Say

By J. David Archibald | Go to book overview

II
Some Myths

Misinformation abounds concerning the disappearance of dinosaurs. A partial explanation for this abundance of confusion is that many people have offered their opinions with little or no knowledge of dinosaurs. I am not sure why this is the case, but much of the ad hoc theorizing seems to come from the widespread perception that no great knowledge of these creatures, their environment, or their contemporaries is necessary to proffer a hypothesis for their demise.

Physicists would no doubt cast a jaundiced eye upon the newest theories of quantum physics published by biologists. Yet expert opinion about the demise of the dinosaurs is apparently off-limits to no one. I know of no other area of science that engenders such a plethora of published speculation. Consider: in one year two of the most prominent semipopular journals in science, American Scientistand Scientific American, published three articles purportedly about dinosaur extinction ( Alvarez and Asaro 1990; Courtillot 1990; Glen 1990). All three articles included the word "dinosaur" in the title, or at least mentioned them in the first and last paragraphs. But none offered more than passing treatment (if that) of dinosaur biology or their extinction. It is even more telling that vertebrate paleontologists wrote none of these articles. No wonder there is considerable confusion in the scientific and popular literature on dinosaur extinction.

The distinction I draw between myths in this chapter and controver-

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Dinosaur Extinction and the End of an Era: What the Fossils Say
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents ix
  • Figures xi
  • Prologue xv
  • I - An Embarrassment of Riches 1
  • II - Some Myths 12
  • III - Some Controversies 29
  • IV - When Is Extinction Really Extinction? 52
  • V - Who's Who of the Late Cretaceous 77
  • VI - The Fates of Vertebrates across the K/T Boundary 116
  • VII - Shades of Dante's Inferno 129
  • VIII - Left High and Dry: Marine Regression and Some Sundry Causes 147
  • IX - Plants and Marine Organisms across the K/T Boundary 171
  • X - A Cacophony of Causes 198
  • References 211
  • Index 227
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