SEP 30, 2022 10:00 AM PDT

Ancient Mass Extinctions Likely from Volcanic Activity

Credit: Pixabay

In a recent study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, a team of researchers led by Dartmouth College produce quantitative evidence that volcanoes, not asteroids or comets, were the dominant facilitator of ancient mass extinctions that restructured life on Earth tens of millions of years ago. This study has the potential to help us better understand the evolution of life on Earth, to include what wiped out the dinosaurs, and was collaborated with scientists from the Berkeley Geochronology Center. While the longstanding theory is the dinosaurs went extinct by the Chicxulub impactor in Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula, this new study allows for other options to be considered.

For the study, the research team utilized longstanding datasets on geologic time scale, paleobiology, and vast areas of ancient volcanic activity, which they dub “large igneous provinces”, to investigate the link between mass extinction and volcanic activity.

"The large step-like areas of igneous rock from these big volcanic eruptions seem to line up in time with mass extinctions and other significant climatic and environmental events," said Theodore Green, who is a graduate student at Princeton and lead author of the study but conducted this research as part of the Senior Fellowship program at Dartmouth.

By comparing datasets of volcanic eruptions combined with periods of mass extinctions to models simulating a randomly generated pattern, the researchers were able to demonstrate that the volcanic activity and mass extinctions were more than a random chance.

"Our results indicate that in all likelihood there would have been a mass extinction at the Cretaceous tertiary boundary of some significant magnitude, regardless of whether there was an impact or not, which can be shown more quantitatively now," said Dr. Paul Renne, Director of the Berkeley Geochronology Center, and a ci-author on the study. "The fact that there was an impact undoubtedly made things worse."

Sources: Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences

As always, keep doing science & keep looking up!

About the Author
MS in Geological Sciences
Laurence Tognetti is a six-year USAF Veteran who earned both a BSc and MSc from the School of Earth and Space Exploration at Arizona State University. Laurence is extremely passionate about outer space and science communication, and is the author of “Outer Solar System Moons: Your Personal 3D Journey”.
You May Also Like
OCT 08, 2022
Space & Astronomy
Grad Student Highlights: David Handy (Florida Institute of Technology)
OCT 08, 2022
Grad Student Highlights: David Handy (Florida Institute of Technology)
David Handy is a PhD student in Biological Sciences at the Florida Institute of Technology (Florida Tech) studying how b ...
OCT 06, 2022
Cannabis Sciences
Synthetic Cannabinoids and Their Effects
OCT 06, 2022
Synthetic Cannabinoids and Their Effects
What are synthetic cannabinoids and what do they do to you? Are they safe or effective?
OCT 19, 2022
Health & Medicine
Study Reveals Retained Dust in Lungs of Military Personnel
OCT 19, 2022
Study Reveals Retained Dust in Lungs of Military Personnel
Researchers from the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) and National Jewish Health teamed up to investigate lung disease seen ...
OCT 22, 2022
Plants & Animals
Could Wolves Be Man's New Best Friend?
OCT 22, 2022
Could Wolves Be Man's New Best Friend?
Our connection to canines goes back at least 15,000 years. A dog's affection for its human companion is a part of wh ...
OCT 25, 2022
Cannabis Sciences
The Role of Terpenes in Cannabis
OCT 25, 2022
The Role of Terpenes in Cannabis
Terpenes play a major role in the makeup and character of various cannabis strains. Here's what they do.
NOV 09, 2022
Genetics & Genomics
What happened to the Neandertals?
NOV 09, 2022
What happened to the Neandertals?
New research suggests that interbreeding, not violence, may have caused the Neandertal extinction.
Loading Comments...