OCT 18, 2023 10:00 AM PDT

What caused the dinosaurs to go extinction? Don't ask scientists: ask AI

WRITTEN BY: Ryan Vingum

A team of researchers at Dartmouth College have leveraged AI insights to better understand the main driver behind the extinction of the dinosaurs. The team’s insights are published in a recent article published in Science.

It’s common knowledge that dinosaurs went extinct millions of years ago in a cataclysmic event that made life inhabitable on Earth. In fact, we probably all have an image of a massive asteroid striking the planet and causing life, dinosaurs and large mammals, in particular, to be wiped out. However, there is some debate over the the primary driver of this extinction event: was it the asteroid, or was it ensuing volcanic eruptions that were triggered by the asteroid? While these different perspectives have become more intertwined in recent years as the fossil records indicate Earth was already experiencing significant volcanic activity when the asteroid hit, the question remains for scientists: what was the most significant driver in this extinction event?

Such is the debate that has raged in the scientific community for some time. So, in a creative way to try and resolve the debate, researchers removed scientists entirely from the equation and instead turned to artificial intelligence to help answer the question.

Specifically, researchers leveraged artificial intelligence technology to help analyze an abundance of both geological and climate data. Using this data, the artificial intelligence modeling tool was able to analyze the fossil record and highlight more precisely what led to the mass extinction event millions of years ago: known as the Cretaceous Paleogene (K-Pg) event. The model produced more than 300,000 different scenarios of what could have happened, modeling how carbon dioxide and sulfur dioxide emissions changed during this time. The artificial intelligence itself works similar to how our phone’s predictive analytics work. Using the wealth of data, the artificial intelligence was able to generate and analyze these scenarios until it landed on one that is aligned with the fossil record.  

Overall, the artificial intelligence model suggests that the amount of carbon dioxide and sulfur dioxide gases produced by mass volcanic eruptions would have been enough on their own to trigger a mass extinction event like K-Pg.

Sources: Science Daily; Science

About the Author
Master's (MA/MS/Other)
Science writer and editor, with a focus on simplifying complex information about health, medicine, technology, and clinical drug development for a general audience.
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