New Reasons for the Demise of the Dinosaurs

Robert E Furey

The extinction event may be better thought of as a still-shot from a video.

Once the Earth was dominated by a diverse group of amazing animals, the dinosaurs. While there are competing taxonomies, there are about 700 known species of dinosaurs in about 300 genera. Dinosaurs filled niches across ecosystems with theropod species smaller than chickens to long-necked sauropods that shook the Earth with their passage. Dinosaurs have not only fascinated us with their variety but also with their longevity on the Earth. Dinosaurs dominated the world for 170 million years.

If there was anything that could be more fascinating than dinosaurs it would be their disappearance. Sixty-six million years ago in what is called the Cretaceous–Paleogene extinction event, something happened. Globally, 75% of all species from 17% of all taxonomic families and 50% of all genera went extinct. Ammonites, insects, marine reptiles, pterosaurs, most sessile organisms, and 100% of non-avian dinosaurs, were gone. Almost overnight, the world went from a lush world filled with bellowing thunder lizards to a very quiet place, precariously balanced on a devastated ecosystem. But what caused this?

The cause of this extinction event has been attributed to several culprits. Commonly, widespread volcanism, impacts from space, and sea-level changes are considered the most likely across the board. There are others, however, that have been investigated including global temperature fulgurations, geomagnetic flipping, anoxic events or hydrogen sulfide emissions in the oceans, or even the slow beat of plate tectonics.

For some time the Cretaceous–Paleogene extinction has been attributed to the impact of an asteroid some 7 kilometers wide. The impact crater is about 145 kilometers wide by 19 deep, centered on Chicxulub, Mexico. The immediate effects after the impact would have been fire and tidal waves. Falling super-heated rock would have spread more fire in a second salvo. Debris, including organism parts directly killed by the asteroid strike, has been found in Hells Creek, North Dakota around 4800 kilometers away from the impact crater.

While there remain some questions concerning the cause and effect of the asteroid, we know it happened and we know that a cascade of events would have followed, none of which would have been good for the dinosaurs. Debris in the sky blocked out sunlight disrupting photosynthesis, the oceans changed temperature and ph, and global climate effects doomed many more around the globe. The Deccan Traps, massive volcanic eruptions on the Indian sub-continent, may have been activated by the impact, further sealing the fate of the Cretaceous ecosystem. By any metric, the extinctions were fast. From the initial raining fire to the winters of 18 months of darkness, the dinosaurs were gone in a geological wink.

In a recent article, Dr. Leandros Perivolaropoulos of the University of Ioannina in Greece blames the Hubble Constant. The Hubble Constant measures the rate at which the universe is expanding. Since the universe’s rate of expansion is increasing, the Hubble value is anything but constant. Perivolaropoulos suggests that a 10% change occurred between 100 million and 50 million years ago. Well placed to be indicted for this particular extinction event.

A change in the Hubble Constant would have direct effects on the gravitational constant, or G, and so on the stability of dynamic systems in space, systems like the solar system. More specifically, a 10% change in G would disrupt the Oort Cloud.

The solar system is surrounded by the Oort Cloud. The Oort Cloud is composed of countless chunks of primordial stuff that did not collapse in the initial formation of the planets. They have been in orbit at the edge of the solar system for billions of years. When G changed, their orbits changed and as objects’ orbits jerked in the changing physics, several bodies rained down on the inner solar system and the dinosaurs ran out of luck.

There are issues with this hypothesis. Most of the Oort Cloud objects are icy bodies and the dinosaur killer was not composed of ice. Never mind that the underlying idea of physics changing the rules is still controversial in itself. It’s worth looking into.

But I would like to take a right turn here and point out something obvious. If the attributing factor of the death of the dinosaurs goes to the asteroid, the subsequent consequences of the strike are a cause-and-effect domino sequence really without end. I mean, we would not be here if they had not gone and that first domino did not spontaneously fall.

The asteroid came from somewhere. Its orbit tweaked to strike. Something had to nudge it into that long fall through space to the coast of the Yucatan. Whatever that was destroyed the dinosaurs. The cause of that mysterious thing triggered the dominoes that ended with an extinction event but also led to an explosion of evolutionary innovation. There is a direct link between the planet killer and you.

One of my high school instructors, Mica Merkle, taught me a whole lot with a simple phrase that I have carried with me ever since. She said, “Don’t f*ck with flux.” She was right, flux killed the dinosaurs. Something changed and they died. Whatever that change was, it’s clear to me that change came from previous changes. Everything is connected.

I am not waiving off the investigation of changes to G or trying to take away the "Planet Killer" prize awarded to that asteroid. But flux means that there will always be something else to investigate. Flux always promises ever more to discover.

Extinction of the dinosaurs:

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Associate Provost of International Relations and Professor of Integrative Science at Harrisburg University. Forensic Entomologist / Deputy Coroner for Dauphin Co, Pennsylvania. Writes about science, travel, and society.

Harrisburg, PA

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