The dinosaurs walked Earth for at least 230 million years – that’s an awfully long time when you consider that the first human ancestors only appeared five to seven million years ago, and humans with only started making crude tools around 2.5 million years ago.
But at the point where the Cretaceous period moved into the Paleogene period – about 66 million years ago – dinosaurs suddenly seem to have been wiped out. No fossils have been found that correspond to a more recent time, which has opened up the debate for why the dinosaurs, along with many other creatures, simply ceased to exist.
Scientists agree that a mass extinction event occurred, but did you know there are lots of theories about what happened? Let’s look at some of the most popular.
The most common theory is that a giant meteor hit the earth, filling the atmosphere with deadly gas, vapourised rock, and dust. This then caused a catastrophic change which lasted for years, meaning that only the most resilient (and probably small) creatures could survive. Evidence for this includes a 93-mile wide crater found on the coast of Mexico, which seems to be the right size and age to support the theory.
Around 70 million years ago – some four to five million years before the mass extinction event – there seems to have been a lot of violent volcanic activity in northern India. The theory is that over tens of thousands of years, the dust and ash that entered the atmosphere slowly became so thick that it blocked the sunlight and caused plants to die. This in turn caused the plant-eating dinosaurs to die out, and then caused the meat-eaters that hunted them to starve.
In the wake of COVID-19 we can easily imagine how an epidemic can wipe out thousands of animals in a species. So when you think about the volume of disease-creating viruses, bacteria and parasites that were about in the time of the dinosaurs, it’s perhaps not crazy to suggest that disease was the downfall of the dinosaurs. A study by Oregon State University showed that 65 million year old mosquitos carried malaria, which may have killed off populations in their droves.
Another theory that the extinction event originated in space is the theory that a supernova wiped out the dinosaurs. This hypothesis suggests that a nearby star – and by nearby, we mean only a few lightyears away as opposed to millions of lightyears – exploded, bathing the planet in lethal radiation and killing off most life.
Whatever the cause of the dinosaurs’ extinction, the good news is you can still get to know them today. One of the most fun things to do in Huddersfield this summer is seeing Dinosaur World Live on the stage. With stunning puppetry and lots of exciting action, this show enables adults and kids alike to learn more about some of their dino favourites, from triceratops to T-rex. It’s one of the top Huddersfield attractions, and those looking for great days out in Huddersfield shouldn’t miss out. Book your tickets today!