Volcano Eruptions Led to Rise of Dinosaurs

The lava all but wiped out main competitors

By Harry Kimball,  Newser Staff

Posted Mar 23, 2010 12:10 PM CDT

(Newser) – An explosion of volcanic activity 200 million years ago may have been responsible for the mass extinction that left dinosaurs with few competitors and allowed them to dominate the Earth for almost 150 million years. Researchers have discovered evidence of massive lava flows concurrent with elevated levels of CO2 in the atmosphere. They surmise that the world was subject to “super” global warming.

“We're talking about a serious amount of the Earth being covered in lava,” the author tells the BBC. 50% of four-legged land animals, 50% of plants, and 20% of marine life were eliminated, including the dinosaurs' main competitor, the crurotarsans. “These events are synchronous with the extinction,” the researcher says. They “all occur within a few tens of thousands of years of the eruption of these huge lava flows.” But how did the dinosaurs survive? It could have been “blind luck.”

Dinosaurs, without a care in the world.
Dinosaurs, without a care in the world.   (AP Photo)
The Soufriere Hills volcano erupts in the Caribbean island of Montserrat.
The Soufriere Hills volcano erupts in the Caribbean island of Montserrat.   (AP Photo)
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