Dinosaurs are dead and buried, but still manage to capture the attention of scientists worldwide. In an attempt to explain their disappearance from our planet, researchers have determined the exact age of the Deccan Traps found in India, which are thought to be related to the massive extinction of the giant lizards, by using zircons.
Photo via: www.yalescientific.org
Studying lava flows might have brought more insight into how the world of dinosaurs collapsed into oblivion. 66 million years ago, an outpour of lava could have triggered the beginning of the end for the monster-lizards, according to a new study. Researchers analysed huge piles of basalt lava that make up the Deccan Traps of India, the youngest of which was released 66.29 million years back.
Perhaps, the most common hypothesis of the extinction of dinosaurs is the one mentioning asteroid impacts. But, that is not the only speculation. The Deccan Traps have been theorised to be behind the Cretaceous-Paleogene extinction. While it is thought that the dinosaurs and most of the species in that period of time disappeared in the aftermath of an asteroid impact 66.04 million years ago, data obtained from the fossils indicate that both the fauna and flora of that era began disappearing before the asteroid impact that is usually associated with their extinction – this coincides with the beginning of the Deccan Traps eruptions.
Those who are in support of the latter theory – that the volcanic eruptions are the cause of the massive extinctions – put forward wholly different arguments: according to them, gases emitted from the volcanoes rendered the atmosphere deadly for the creatures. The noxious gases might have altered temperatures and the pH of oceans. One of the obstacles to digging deeper into this theory was the lack of evidence as to the age of the Deccan Traps. The scientists of the study therefore focused their efforts on determining the exact age of the basalt rocks by looking for zircons which are minerals rarely found in lava. Tests of the zircons showed that the volcanic activity started off 66.288 million years ago. Furthermore, it was found that the majority of the lava volume (80 to 90 % of the 512 000 cubic kilometers total volume) was released within around 750 000 years.
This study marks just the beginning of attempting to prove the theory. The first steps have paved the way for further research as to the correlation between the volcanic activity and the mass extinction, if any. The team of scientists are expected to carry out more searches for zircon in January when they will return to India.