A painting by Donald E. Davis depicting an asteroid slamming into tropical, shallow seas of the Yucatan Peninsula, 65 million years ago. The aftermath of this collision is believed to have caused the extinction of the dinosaurs.
In 2010 we thought it was all over but the singing. The long standing debate over the trigger to one of the most infamous extinction events in history was resolved. We could pack it in, no further research needed. Or, so might some believe. Peter Schulte, with other researchers (and there were a lot, some 41 of them) published in Science: “The Chicxulub Asteroid Impact and Mass Extinction at the Cretaceous-Paleogene Boundary.” Though the asteroid hit at a time of some change 65 million years ago, the coordination between high resolution geochemical signatures around the globe, and the refined paleontological record indicate a single event-cause, and not massive volcanic emissions; “alternative…hypothesis fail to explain” all the anomalies.
But scientist are a stubborn lot. In 1992, in the early days of the modern impact evidence, it could appear that practitioners of separate disciplines were espousing their original deductions and evidence onto the debating stage, but were often falling on deaf ears and distracted attentions. Because this newly emerging disparate group of geochemists, astronomers, geophysicists, micropaleontologists, and let’s not forget the multiple science genres like dinosaur paleontologist, paleomammologists, communication at times failed. There were missed opportunities for sure, for those interested in working together. So, me and a few others assembled, annotated and indexed a bibliography pertaining to the extinction event that included, not just the dinosaurs, but the entire fauna, flora, environment. It was my humble, little attempt to create a resource for any specialist. And, regardless of my efforts, the interdisciplinary, global approach matured . But the debate hasn’t stopped.
In April, another multi-authored and disciplinary paper led by Mark Reynolds, published “Triggering of the Largest Deccan Eruptions by the Chicxulub Impact”, in the Geological Society of America Bulletin. Contrary to the Schulte article, these authors found evidence, and coordinated research followed to show “the Chicxulub impact may have been sufficiently large to have triggered volcanic eruptions worldwide.” Effectively a 1-2 punch 65 million years ago. The impacting event at one end of the world, in Mexico, enhanced an already tectonically sensitive region in India on a massive scale. The environmental stresses – acid rain, ejecta debris, food web collapse, regional wildfires, had devastating ramifications.
Since 1992 I have continued to accumulate nearly every scientific article related to the studies involving this extinction event. From 300 or so papers gathered in 1992, to a file cabinet full monster. My intent and hope is to augment the 1992 work, again providing a single source for understanding an idea. But, beside this monstrous pile, is another intriguing monster of paleontological ideas, beside another…and so on. Someday I will slay these monstrous accumulations of ideas in paper form.