Mass Extinctions On The Earth Essay, Research Paper
Mass Extinctions on the Earth
Sixty-five million years ago, some phenomenon triggered mass extinctions on the lands and in the
oceans so profound that they define the geological boundary between the older Mesozoic Era, often
called the “Age of Reptiles,” and the modern Cenozoic Era, the “Age of Mammals.”
On a finer scale, the extinctions define the boundary between the Cretaceous (geological symbol,
“K”), and Tertiary (”T”) periods. This mass extinction is usually referred to as the K-T extinctions.
The dinosaurs became extinct during the K-T mass extinction. To examine how the K-T extinctions
fit into a broader perspective, please see the
The cause of the K-T extinctions is one of the great mysteries in science, and many scientists
have proposed theories to account for it. Theories span a vast spectrum of causes including: sea
level change, supernova explosions, climate change, and on and on.
Beginning in the 1980s, two new theories became the topic of an intense scientific debate. They
are the K-T impact extinction theory originated by the Nobelist physicist, Luis Alvarez, and his
team, and the K-T Deccan Traps extinction theory, which, for short, is called volcano-greenhouse
Details of the Impact Theory
In the mid-late 1970s, Luis Alvarez and his impact team began searching for the cause of the K-T
His evidence of impact was enrichment of the chemical, iridium, in a thin layer of clay a few
centimenters thick at the K-T boundary. His original theory held that a giant asteroid struck earth 65
million years ago, blasting so much dust into the atmosphere that it blocked out sunlight, and plunged
earth into the blackness and cold of a sudden, short-duration, “impact winter.”
According to Alvarez theory, the global blackout triggered extinctions among the plant kingdom,
and then among herbivores that depended upon plants for food, and then among the carnivores that
ate the herbivores.
Those smaller animals that could hide and hibernate until the sun came out again must have
sruvived and formed the animals that there are today.
There is other evidence for this theory : there is a layer of iridium found on top of the fossils which
can be found all over the world. this is important becouse there is a lot of iridium on asteroids while
on earth it is only deep down inside the crater.
Details of the Volcano Theory:
Another less popular theory to explain the disappearance of the dinosaurs suggests that a drop in
the oxygen levels in the lower atmosphere led to the gradual death of all kinds of species.
Robert Barner and Gary Landis of the U.S. Geological survey determined that the air that the
dinosaurs consumed contained 50% more oxygen than the air today. This can be the same for us as
trying to breathe to the same air found at the sea level as compared to air at 3500 m.
There was a lot of volcanoe eruptions at the same time (and since they took up soo much air it
was hard for the dinosaurs to breathe , so they fianlly died.
The evidence is that the fossils found in the ground contain traces of lager traces of Oxygen.
How can humans stop this?
Since mankind is much smarter than the reptiles it is obvious that we can stop these asteroids from
colliding with the earth. The only question is how. Now we have nuclear devices which can be put
on these asteroids so that they can explode just in time before it’s course is doomed towards earth.