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Frequently Asked Dinosaur Questions
Question #2: How and when did the dinosaurs go extinct?
Answer: The dinosaurs (except the birds) went extinct 65 million years ago, probably due to the after-effects of an asteroid impact off the Yucatan Peninsula.
There are a lot of theories about why this K-T (Cretaceous-Tertiary) extinction occurred, but a widely accepted theory (proposed in 1980 by physicist Luis Alvarez and his son Walter Alvarez, a geologist), is that an asteroid 4-9 miles (6-15 km) in diameter hit the Earth about 65 million years ago. The impact would have penetrated the Earth's crust, scattering dust and debris into the atmosphere, and caused huge fires, volcanic activity , tsunamis, severe storms with high windsand highly acidic rain . The impact could have caused chemical changes in the Earth's atmosphere, increasing concentrations of sulfuric acid, nitric acid, and fluoride compounds. The heat from the impact's blast wave would have incinerated all the life forms in its path.
The dust and debris thrust into the atmosphere would have blocked most of the sunlight for months, and lowered the temperature globally.
Those organisms that could not adapt to the temperature and light changes would die out. Since plants' energy is derived from the sun, they would likely be the first to be affected by changes in climate. Many families of phytoplankton and plants would die out, and the Earth's oxygen levels may well have dramatically decreased, both on land and in the oceans, suffocating those organisms which were unable to cope with the lower oxygen levels.
Major changes in the food web would result from all of these these environmental upheavals. The herbivores (plant eaters) who ate those plants would starve soon after the plants died. Then, at the top of the food chain, the carnivores (meat eaters), having lost their prey, would have to eat each other, and eventually die out. Their large carcasses must have provided smaller animals with food for quite a while.
Although most dinosaurs went extinct about 65 million years ago, one branch of the dinosaurs (the dromaeosaurids) evolved into the birds.
Top Sixteen Dinosaur Questions
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