A new study has provided an updated theory about how the dinosaurs were wiped out 66 million years ago.
A paper published in the Scientific Reports journal puts forward the theory that a massive asteroid did indeed strike the Earth, but that its devastating effects were different than commonly thought, reports The Independent.
Researchers – from Japan’s Meteorological Research Institute and Tohuku Univeristy – now believe the asteroid struck the Yucatan Peninsula in Mexico, hitting massive oil deposits and sending a blanket of thick black smoke into the atmosphere, engulfing the planet.
The amount of sunlight fell by a huge 85 per cent, causing the Earth to cool by as much as 16 degrees Celsius on land for about three years.
Also, rainfall would have fallen by roughly 80 per cent causing extreme and devastating droughts.
The researchers wrote:
Small mammals and reptiles could have lived underground where it is warmer – dinosaurs did not.
These different habitats would have been key factors in determining their extinction or survival.
Experts had previously wondered why dinosaurs had died out while other reptiles – like the ancestors of crocodiles – had survived.
The accepted theory was that the impact caused vapours of sulphuric acid in the sky, which reflected sunlight, leading to global darkness, near-freezing conditions and widespread acid rain.
However, the team from Tohuku said:
If this had occurred, crocodilians and various other animals would have also gone extinct.
It is thought that only 12 per cent of life on land lived through the aftermath of the asteroid impact, whereas 90 per cent of freshwater species managed to survive.
Dark times. Literally.