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Palaeontology

Intense volcanism gave rise to the dinosaurs

By T.K. Randall
June 20, 2017 · Comment icon 5 comments



The volcanic activity proved deadly to much of the Earth's wildlife. Image Credit: C.G. Newhall / USGS
A mass extinction event 200 million years ago made it possible for the dinosaurs to dominate the planet.
A new study led by Lawrence Percival from the Earth sciences department at Oxford University has revealed that the rise of the dinosaurs was preceded by a period of intense volcanic activity which brought about one of the largest mass extinctions in the planet's history.

The dinosaurs then filled the gaps left behind by all the species that were wiped out.

The findings were based on an analysis of the amount of mercury present in the sediment from this time period - a prime indicator of the level of volcanic activity that would have been occurring.

"If you can see a big spike in mercury in those sediments, you can infer there is volcanism happening at that exact time," said Professor Percival.

"And that's what we see at the time of this extinction."
This intense period of volcanism would have proved devastating to most living things, even those living a great distance from the eruptions themselves.

If it hadn't been for this mass extinction event however, things may have turned out very different.

"Before the extinction and the volcanic eruptions, there were many groups of large reptiles, such as large crocodile-like animals, early relatives of mammals, as well as the dinosaurs themselves," said Professor Percival.

"The dinosaurs were not a major group at that time. However, the extinction killed off the first two groups, leaving the dinosaurs as the only major land-based reptile group left."

"The dinosaurs then had the opportunity to exploit the gaps in the ecosystem, which ultimately led to their domination of planet Earth for the next 135 million years."

Source: BBC News | Comments (5)


Recent comments on this story
Comment icon #1 Posted by DanL 6 years ago
One of the current theories on this is that the eruptions were caused by a just enormous asteroid strike on the exact opposite side of the planet. The shock waves going through the liquid core basically caused a blow out on the other side which was Siberia at the time. They just recently identified another huge crater even bigger than the one off the Yucatan peninsula that was the one at the time of the dinosaur extinction. This stuff happens on a fairly regular basis. If people don't want to go the way of so many other species in the past we need to get OFF this planet so all our eggs aren't ... [More]
Comment icon #2 Posted by paperdyer 6 years ago
Well according to Wikipedia, Pangaea started drifting apart about 175 million years ago.† If there was such an asteroid strike, it could have caused the continental drift.
Comment icon #3 Posted by BeastieRunner 6 years ago
Makes sense that a mass extinction event leads to another group taking over.
Comment icon #4 Posted by Hammerclaw 6 years ago
It's called the Permian Extinction and it's long been known volcanism caused it in the form of flood basalt flows creating the Siberian Traps.
Comment icon #5 Posted by Socks Junior 6 years ago
† It's not the Permian extinction. The end Permian mass extinction...or "Great Dying" was†ca. 252†Ma. This study is concerned with the end Triassic, at ca. 201 Ma, and the CAMP volcanism.


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