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

By J. David Archibald | Go to book overview

VI
The Fates of Vertebrates Across the K/T Boundary

Without question there are more theories of how dinosaurs became extinct than for any other creatures that have inhabited this planet. In the late 1980s Alan Charig, curator emeritus of the British Museum of Natural History, informed me that he had tallied over eighty theories of how dinosaurs had met their demise. As I will argue in the closing chapter, it was probably not a single cause that brought the dinosaur extinction, but eighty causes surely is overkill!

I will not dwell on those theories for which physical or biological evidence is lacking, but will go directly to the three that have been most recently tested and debated. These are the impact theory, the volcanism theory, and the marine regression theory. I regard all of these as ultimate, not proximate. By this I mean that none of these events would have directly caused the extinctions. Rather each would have precipitated ancillary or corollary consequences that then did the deed.

This distinction is important. Moreover, it may be time for the debaters to join forces. Although doubters as to an impact, or volcanism, or marine regression near or at the K/T boundary remain in force, evidence is becoming overwhelming that all three occurred. In chapters 7 and 8 I will spend some time discussing these three events, especially magnitude and timing, but I accept them all as having been adequately demonstrated. What most requires testing, in my view, is

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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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