There is new evidence that most dinosaur species became extinct millions of years ago from a meteorite impact in Mexico. This is evident from an international study, in which two Dutch people also collaborated, which was published today in the scientific journal Science Advances. According to the researchers, the evidence is one of the last pieces of the puzzle needed to determine the cause of dinosaur extinction.
Scientists have long believed that Mexico’s Chicxulub crater in the Gulf of Mexico holds evidence of dinosaur extinction. All this time they had a desire to drill in the center of the crater.
But that’s complicated, says paleontologist Jan Smit of the Free University of Amsterdam who was involved in the research. “We have been raising funds to pay for the drilling since 1994, but it was only a few years ago that the required amount – more than 13 million dollars – had been collected. This included a special drilling rig.”
The samples from those drillings have now been examined, and it appears that there is a high concentration of iridium deep in the soil. “That substance is actually a kind of fingerprint of a meteorite,” says researcher Smit. “Iridium has been found on Earth countless times, such as on dinosaur fossils.”
Yet it was never definitively established where the impact crater of that specific meteorite is located, says Smit.
Researcher Jan Smit: “To put that last piece of the puzzle, it was necessary to also find the iridium in the Mexican crater, which we thought for years was the ‘guilty’ crater”:
According to Smit, it is now certain that the meteorite impact in Mexico is the cause of the extinction of most dinosaur species. And other scientists, not involved in the research, also consider the conclusion important. “The fact that the iridium has now also been found in the crater itself is the icing on the cake”, says professor Anne Schulp, who works at Naturalis.
“The story of the dinosaurs confronts us with the facts”, says Naturalis expert Schulp. “Species can become extinct, including those that are super successful. For more than 150 million years, they ruled, and all of a sudden they’re gone.”
‘Other side of the story’
Although the impact took place millions of years ago, it is important to research it, says Schulp. “We are increasingly understanding how life has developed over time. The better we get a picture of this, the better we can predict how we are going into the future. For example in terms of climate and biodiversity. These are super important themes. “
Dinosaurs may die, but according to Schulp, something will come in return. “If these large meat and plant eaters no longer roam the earth, it will give room for a lot of other animal groups.” People, among others, benefited from it. “The dinosaurs make way for the mammals. We wouldn’t have been there without that meteorite impact in Mexico.”