Mass Extinction 215 Million Years Ago Was NOT Due to Asteroid or Climate Change

Asteroid Hitting Earth

According to a new study, the mass extinction that occurred 215 million years ago was not caused by an asteroid hitting Earth or by climate change.

A team of University of Rhode Island scientists and statisticians conducted a sophisticated quantitative analysis of a mass extinction that occurred 215 million years ago and found that the cause of the extinction was not an asteroid or climate change, as had previously been believed. Instead, the scientists concluded that the extinction did not occur suddenly or simultaneously, suggesting that the disappearance of a wide variety of species was not linked to any single catastrophic event.

Their research, based on paleontological field work carried out in sediments 227 to 205 million years old in Petrified Forest National Park, Arizona, was published in April in the journal Geology.

Outcrop for Fossils at Petrified Forest National Park

URI graduate student Reilly Hayes (left) and undergraduate Amanda Bednarick examine an outcrop for fossils at Petrified Forest National Park as part of their research. Credit: Photo courtesy of Amanda Bednarick)

According to David Fastovsky, the URI professor of geosciences whose graduate student, Reilly Hayes, led the study, the global extinction of ancient Late Triassic vertebrates – the disappearance of which scientists call the Adamanian/Revueltian turnover – had never previously been reconstructed satisfactorily. Some researchers believed the extinction was triggered by the Manicouagan Impact, an asteroid impact that occurred in Quebec 215.5 million years ago, leaving a distinctive 750-square-mile lake. Others speculated that the extinction was linked to a hotter and drier climate that occurred at about the same time.

“Previous hypotheses seemed very nebulous, because nobody had ever approached this problem – or any ancient mass extinction problem – in the quantitative way that we did,” Fastovsky said. “In the end, we concluded that neither the asteroid impact nor the climate change had anything to do with the extinction, and that the extinction was certainly not as it had been described – abrupt and synchronous.  In fact, it was diachronous and drawn-out.”

The Adamanian/Revueltian turnover was the perfect candidate for applying the quantitative methods employed by the research team, Fastovsky said. Because the fossil-rich layers at Petrified Forest National Park preserve a diversity of vertebrates from the period, including crocodile-like phytosaurs, armored aetosaurs, early dinosaurs, large crocodile-like amphibians, and other land-dwelling vertebrates, Hayes relocated the sites where known fossils were discovered and precisely determined their age by their position in the rock sequence. He was assisted by URI geosciences majors Amanda Bednarick and Catherine Tiley.

Hayes and URI Statistics Professor Gavino Puggioni then applied several Bayesian statistical algorithms to create “a probabilistic estimate” of when the animals most likely went extinct. This method allowed for an unusually precise assessment of the likelihood that the Adamanian vertebrates in the ancient ecosystem went extinct dramatically and synchronously, as would be expected with an asteroid impact.

Previous research concluded that the asteroid impact occurred 215.5 million years ago and the climate change some 3 to 5 million years later. The URI researchers demonstrated that the extinctions happened over an extended period between 222 million years ago and 212 million years ago. Some species of armored archosaurs Typothorax and Paratypothorax, for instance, went extinct about 6 million years before the impact and 10 million years before the climate change, while those of Acaenasuchus, Trilophosaurus and Calyptosuchus went extinct 2 to 3 million years before the impact. Desmatosuchus and Smilosuchus species, on the other hand, went extinct 2 to 3 million years after the impact and during the very early stages of the climate change.

“It was a long-lasting suite of extinctions that didn’t really occur at the same time as the impact or the climate change or anything else,” Fastovsky said. “No known instantaneous event occurred at the same time as the extinctions and thus might have caused them.”

The URI professor believes it will be difficult to apply these quantitative methods to calculate other mass extinctions because equally rich fossil data and precise radiometric dates for them aren’t available at other sites and for other time periods.

“This was like a test case, a perfect system for applying these techniques because you had to have enough fossils and sufficiently numerous and precise dates for them,” he said. “Other extinctions could potentially be studied in a similar way, but logistically it’s a tall mountain to climb. It’s possible there could be other ways to get at it, but it’s very time consuming and difficult.”

Reference: “Modeling the dynamics of a Late Triassic vertebrate extinction: The Adamanian/Revueltian faunal turnover, Petrified Forest National Park, Arizona, USA” by Reilly F. Hayes, Gavino Puggioni, William G. Parker, Catherine S. Tiley, Amanda L. Bednarick and David E. Fastovsky, 3 January 2020, Geology.
DOI: 10.1130/G47037.1

59 Comments on "Mass Extinction 215 Million Years Ago Was NOT Due to Asteroid or Climate Change"

  1. Phyllis Matthey Johnson | May 31, 2020 at 2:55 pm | Reply

    How will plants that rely on Honey Bees germinate once bees go extinct?
    Will there be a mass shortage of essential grains like wheat. flour and rice? How will agricultural scientists react to prevent mass hunger? Thank you.

  2. What do bees have to do with this article? Who even said that bees are going extinct? This is nonsense to say the least.

  3. Cauldron of Stardust | May 31, 2020 at 5:45 pm | Reply

    Just so readers are aware, this extinction event happened WITHIN the Late Triassic Period, 215 million years ago (when some of the more famous early dinosaurs like Plateosaurus were just starting to emerge onto the world stage). The article mentions this once, but it’s easy to gloss over. It is NOT the more famous End Cretaceous extinction of 66 million years ago (which wiped out most non-avian ancestral dinosaurs), nor is it the earlier End Permian extinction (aka “The Great Dying”) of 252 million years ago, nor is it even the slightly later End Triassic extinction of 201 million years ago. Again, this is in reference to a very little known extinction event WITHIN the Late Triassic itself. I don’t believe the article made that point very clear to the casual reader, so I think it’s worth mentioning again.

  4. Marlow Swan | May 31, 2020 at 7:04 pm | Reply

    Well you should pay more attention because yes Bees 🐝 are struggling to survive due to certain pesticides in our environment

  5. The time period of the study is 18 million years. Bees, timeframe, what – twenty ? Are they really comparable ?

  6. This is ridiculous! Theyre basing all this baloney from one site in one continent. So? Because there was definitely mass extinction because of one or more meteors diesnt mean all dinasours were wiped out. It’s quite possible millions survived in pocket regions. Then later died out from some othe catastrophe. These researchers are totally off base and clueless.

    • ronald russell | May 31, 2020 at 9:45 pm | Reply

      Publish a rational refutation including peer reviewed literature citations and possibly, just possibly your incredulity will have merit. Other than that your comment is a sad testimony to what I am almost certain is your proud and earned scientific illiteracy.

  7. Craig Knutson | May 31, 2020 at 8:16 pm | Reply

    I don’t have educational letters behind my name signifying a specific discipline of education (arguably indoctrination) but I have wrestled with the evidence for 30 years including 24 years of observational travel in the Rocky Mountain intermountain states, the middle east and northern and eastern Africa. My imagination can never truly discount the effect of a worldwide flood with rampant and aggressive volcanic activity (protecting the atmosphere). Simple observational approach over hundreds of miles and in different parts of the world cannot fully discount such things imo I have no agenda just…I don’t understand why such things are considered toxic aside from philosophical/religious reasons. ‘Science’ in many ways has experienced a coup de etat of statistical math with a blind reliance on predecessorial faith. Ridiculous. My rambling 2 cents worth

  8. Cauldron’s comment is excellent -. This is not the extinction event everyone thinks of as the end of the dinosaurs- that is an entirely other event but this article seems to written to sensationalize an academic report by associating it with that other well known event.

  9. Wow such word salads from some of you guys. How am I to even compete with wordings as simple as a guy like me? I feel like a man not wearing a silly hat at a silly hat party.

    But the bees. I agree with the woman about the bees. We are here seeing it happening. Can’t say the same for us and Dino’s.

    I like avocados in my salads.

  10. I instictively distrust results which come from “several Bayesian statistical algorithms” which are designed “to create a probabilistic estimate” of anything. It seems to me that what “Bayesian statistical algorithms” usually create is whatever preconceived ideas were in the heads of the people who created the algorithms.

  11. Michael R Hale | May 31, 2020 at 11:08 pm | Reply

    Craig Knutson – What do you mean by “‘Science’ in many ways has experienced a coup de etat of statistical math with a blind reliance on predecessorial faith.”? Statistical Math is part of science. And what is “predecessorial” faith? “Predecessorial” seems to imply a belief in things that happened previously (predecessors).

  12. captain obvious | June 1, 2020 at 3:03 am | Reply

    It was the corona virus

  13. Venudas Meshram | June 1, 2020 at 4:19 am | Reply

    After reading this article It is not clear to me why , when and how Mass Extinction occurred or took place ,please clear doubts

  14. Toby O Brien | June 1, 2020 at 6:29 am | Reply

    Gave up reading after it said STUDENT. Somehow I don’t think a student freah off the block would be able to work out life all in 5 minutes on his own.

    Stick to dolls mate.

    • Literally the first paragraph says A TEAM, “A team of University of Rhode Island scientists and statisticians conducted a sophisticated quantitative analysis of a mass extinction that occurred 215 million years ago and found that the cause of the extinction was not an asteroid or climate change, as had previously been believed. Instead, the scientists concluded that the extinction did not occur suddenly or simultaneously, suggesting that the disappearance of a wide variety of species was not linked to any single catastrophic event.”

      • Just like now species are going extinct because of global warming, pesticides, plastic in the ocean and yes the bees. Once man kills the ocean – and this is happening- we wont have enough oxygen as the ocean makes 70% of our oxygen.

  15. Douglas Connelly | June 1, 2020 at 6:45 am | Reply

    There was a flood of the earth in 4990 BC that destroyed everything.

  16. Sharyn Camarato | June 1, 2020 at 7:06 am | Reply

    Randomly stumbled on this while enjoying a cuppa coffee. I’m not qualified to chime in but after reading the article I confess that I am none the wiser about mass extinction than before. Perhaps more confused. Though I can never get my wasted time back, it’s ok. Not bitter at all. What I do know is certain… Dinosaurs existed and are extinct. Petrified forest is also real. Fancy words gets my bull____ meter going. Best part of the entire article was the comments! Halarios. That’s worth the read. Whew I needed that so thank you.
    My opinion is why spend the time and expenses (never gonna get that back btw), beating a dead horse, or dinosaur for that matter on solving the “nobody cares” mystery in order to obtain “don’t matter anymore” when the world is going straight to shit around us. Again, I’m no scholar but maybe use those big heads and big wallets to figure out how to prevent another mass extinction. Exclude meteors naturally. 215 million years ago, get over it and move on please. Real solutions in real time people. Bees need us to figure out the immenent doom ok. 20 years c’mon man, can we spare the time? I’m with the Bee person here. Just saying

  17. If you watch the film ‘Is Genesis History’, which many scientists are in the film stating that the timeline we have been taught is wrong, and that dinosaurs likely had feathers and drowned in the great flood. Great film, watch it if you haven’t.

  18. I dont want to sound dumb but why hasnt anybody ever mentioned these animals went extent from starvation due to over population example can anybody imagine how much vegatation and water one veggie dino consumed in one day and how many dinos one dino consumed in one day if these huge animals roamed the earth in mass herds what did they eat
    why one medetn day horse can clear an acre in few days what did one dino clear in a day and the carnio dino how many other dinos did they eat in a week and thst comes to water these are said to ve birds not lizzards well how much water did one dino need a day . maybe due to over population they became extenct is that possible ???

  19. I don’t understand how it is possible to determine when a species went extinct using data from just one site. Isn’t it possible that other places still had a surviving population of a given species?

  20. Marcelo Malheiros | June 1, 2020 at 9:18 am | Reply

    Proving and disproving theories is part of science… people always expect that a theory would be disproved by a stronger theory but that’s not the case…

    The same way that people love the Big Bang Theory despite of the fact that the galaxy speeds seem to be accelerating…

  21. The scientists and there ever changing theory the biggest mass extinction event on earth happen with and asteroid that hit what we know as the Gulf of Mexico whole reason why the earth is cracked like an egg don’t confuse it with the little asteroid that supposedly killed the dinosaurs scientists know that event was too small you can do the research the Gulf of Mexico as a whole is an impact crater hence the double rim it has you can see it on any satellite image

  22. I would say the mass extinction of life on earth was due to a flood. Killing dinosaurs, people and other life forms. People can believe whatever theories they want to believe because they are all theories. Nothing proven. There is more proof of a massive flood than any other theory out there. How could these massive Skeltons of animals and dinasours be so preserved. They where burring upon layers of sediment from flooding waters.

  23. Some of the smartest men cannot figure out the unknown besides calling it the unknown or infinite. What’s so hard about accepting some things are beyond human comprehension and putting your faith and trust in a sovereign God maker of heaven and earth. How about believing what the Bible says on how life form was destroyed? Can’t prove that was wrong. In fact there are men , highly educated and scientist that believe the same thing as me. There is no evidence that life form was destroyed by an asteroid . That’s Just a theory, just as evolution. All Theories that are not proven .

  24. Thomas Frazier | June 1, 2020 at 11:03 am | Reply

    It’s unfortunate so many scientist dont know about the continuous earth cycles caused by the cycles of the galactic wave from the center of our galaxy. And the great flooding event cycle caused by the binary star to our sun.
    Both cyclical events cause mass extinctions approximately every 12000 years. Although the galactic wave causes our sun to mini nova. The superheated plasma coronal mass ejection from our sun causes the earth to get pushed out of its orbit, a little each time. So the cycle of events extends out a little each time.
    Past highly advanced civilizations have been wiped out of existence, leaving just a few to pass down this earth history.
    The last civilization was so advanced they knew the end date of our earth cycle. They just made one mistake. They didnt know that the end of their earth cycle would push the earth out of its 360 day cycle out to it’s current 365 1/4 day cycle.
    21st of December 2012 was the end of the Mayan calendar. That was a 360 day calendar. Add 5 1/4 days per year since the last galactic wave hit our solar system to the date 21 dec 2012 and you will have the exact date of the end of this earth cycle. … the tribulations started on 23 September 2018. Seven years from that date is 23 September 2025.
    You can dismiss comment, or you can start asking questions and seeking higher truth. Good luck

  25. Obviously it was mass suicide.

  26. Yes it is true that bees are having hard times at present time !
    And it is thought to have something to do with the radiation from cell phones and cell towers , it makes it hard for them to navigate back to their hives do to the resonance that they use is interrupted , they have done studies on it for years now and it effects a lot of people in a negative way also. So No it is not nonsense !

  27. Grasses (wheat, rice, etc.) are pollinated by the wind, not by bees. Lots of fruits and nuts do require bees however, so without bees we’d be in deep trouble.

  28. Neonicotinoids in pesticides have been clearly shown to be confusing and killing off bees, but they are still widely and heavily used in the US. There are other thing harming bees too, but the neonicotinoids are currently the biggest threat to them by far. Some countries have already banned them, such as France, due to overwhelming scientific evidence.

  29. Well, my take on this is that there is a relationship between the Earth cyclic catastrophes and old women becoming cat ladies. As the world becomes more mediaized, the age at which cat ladies become whiskered is a tiny bit later, geologically speaking. Myself having acquired cat lady status a tad earlier than my grandmother and mother.
    The relationship being the density of the hydrogen Earth emits thru the pressure exuded by the sun affecting the Earth’s core; more gas, more laxity in tolerating cat table residence, and the desire for a warm spot on the chair.

  30. There seems to be a lot of next level scientists in the comment section here!

  31. Just don’t buy into any extinction theory if u can wipe out a species completely then how after all theses years and I’m not saying millions or billions of years how has humans survived this long we actually if all the rest is fact even be here my personally believe is we haven’t even been on this planet anymore than two to three million years that’s still an over the top exaggerated number..

  32. Jari Voutilainen | June 1, 2020 at 4:22 pm | Reply

    Andromeda galaxy is now about 200 million light years from us.The time backwards when the ex

  33. The further I read, the more bored I became!
    So basically, this is the drift that I got:
    These guys are raking in the taxpayer coin to sift dirt and random sized pebbles from which allegedly they extract conclusive evidence that this was that, at this point in time and that is the end of that!
    Then they file some glorious papers to the world, win some award or recognition MEANWHILE:
    Yet ANOTHER group digs in some different dirt and rocks AND THEY DECLARE…that this was that, at this point in time and that is the end of that! Totally refuting the first guys info. I see, now the first guys need even more cash to get back to their pits and dig on…

  34. It’s pointless to nitpick at this study. It in fact clarifies things, and no energy whatsoever is indicated pointing out mathematically certain shortfalls. This propensity – to look for that ONE fault – is an evolutionary residue. Evolving humans needed negative information to plot survival strategies. Finding that ONE THING in any landscape that might kill us once had utility. These now-useless behaviors perpetuate conflict in the modern day by invalidating entire scenarios, by overstating the few flaws. It needs to stop. IT’S KILLING US.

    One thing that is scientifically flawed is that not ALL dinosaurs died. “Some found shelter.” SHELTER DID NOT HELP.

    The Dino-killing asteroid blotted out the sun for 30 years. That wiped out the middle of the food chain, and also stunted photosynthesis. 1. Oxygen Depletion and, 2. Across-the-board food-chain disturbance meant disappearance of all creatures taller than approximately 5 inches.

  35. Thanks Cauldron! As a casual reader coming here from my Google feed, I would’ve thought exactly as you expected!
    If Google is recommending this though, that must mean this title is misleading many more…

  36. It is a very good point that Honey bee extinction can lead to other extinctions as plants that they pollinate are not and food sources finished leading to starvation. Honey bees are now have their intricate coms systems affected by all the new radiowave disturbance due to our technology improvements in come. I.e. Mobile phones.

  37. Mattgew? Hilarious comment. Thks. It does appear to be small sample from Petrified NP. But I’m just happy seeing the phrase “Manicouagan impact” in print. Only, up in Quebec it’s known as “le impacte”..;)

  38. Jesus Christ | June 1, 2020 at 8:00 pm | Reply

    One day all created beings will acknowledge “The Creator”. Not an accident & not billions of years ago in order to justify how long humans “think” it would take for things to “evolve” rather that just supernaturally happen. Talk about an extreme version of “Fake news” that has kept so many in the dark & confused!

  39. I see the results of home schooling in these comments (a flood, really?). 215 million years ago dinos were just evolving so this study isn’t about the event/s that finished them. The animals studied for this paper were probably just outcompeted by the new faster warm blooded dinos.

  40. Honeybees are under stress right now but are in no danger of extinction, nor are wild bees in general.

  41. It’s all creation | June 1, 2020 at 8:37 pm | Reply

    The Lord is in control of everything. The world as it is, already was, and will be again. There is nothing new under the sun. There is no such thing as climate change. And if bees are gone, they’re gone. Nothing can evolve from nothing. The world and everything in it was created.

    • Hello I have some questions regarding your claims. If The Lord is in control of everything why do we have free will? I agree that “nothing can evolve from nothing” however is it possible that something can evolve from something else. The last question is if all life present on Earth at the moment I posted this is the maximum amount diversity of life, and that diversity will slowly decay if The Lord wants it to. Then how did the killer bee come into existence on the Earth? I am not attempting to disprove or prove the existence of god since that argument is impossible to win from a scientific point of view. Because how can you say something does not exist simply by it not being documented. The reason I am asking this is to better understand how people think.

  42. M.P.Muraleedharan | June 1, 2020 at 9:30 pm | Reply

    Pandemic could have caused mass extinction spread over for millions of years. Pandemic is disastrous not for humans alone. Mass extinction didn’t take place at a given moment is a supporting factor.

  43. I think two factos played role in the extinction of certian species. 1. Pandemic diseases, little immunity and posnous conditions. 2. Longer gestational system with one baby in ten years.

  44. Thank you for NOT offering a biblical interpretation.

  45. How long has Selected been going on for? Why do they block out the sky every time? Which way is North?

  46. The earth being two thirds water.statistics and hi percentage of an asteroid hitting the ocean.. would you have an impact crater to compare too for your extinction timelines… it’s all just a guessing body is for certain

  47. Jerry Freeman | June 2, 2020 at 6:04 am | Reply

    CNN must send their wannabe reporters out there to make sure that it wasn’t dinosaur brutality perpetrated by “The Man” !!!!😎😆😆😆😆

  48. Again, it should be noted that this “event” they are talking about is not one of the known mass extinction events. Or even worldwide. This was on small die off on one continent. The headline is bait.
    While interesting, it has no bearing on the mass extintion events of the dinosaurs 65 million years ago or almost all life in the Permian event 250 million years ago….

  49. Chris Macey | June 2, 2020 at 6:24 am | Reply

    I was considering all the comments and was drawn to the cat lady’s thoughts. I realized that behind the humorous style and content of the comments was a very insightful idea. Darwin, in his Origin of the Species, points out the correlation between the amount of honey in a region with the number of spinsters living there. Since the greatest enemy (beside man) of the honey bee is the field mouse, the greatest enemy of the field mouse is the domestic cat, and the greatest protector of the domestic cat are spinsters. The cat lady’s comments ties everything together, extinction, honey bees, asteroids and …. well almost everything!

  50. Ok, so the extension was caused by white men again

  51. This scintist is stupid and mental

  52. No its not due to asteroid impact or climate change. Its gradual evolution over millions years. Largest animals gradually evolved into smaller animals to suit the intensity of the gravity. Some evolved into birds due “atmospheric stimulation” Dinosaurs and prehistoric animals did not became extinct. They evolved. Only the sea animals that were cushioned by the ocean became the largest animals like sharks and whales.

  53. Richard Hammill | June 2, 2020 at 3:33 pm | Reply

    It’s settled science. Whatever proof you have now is immaterial. Climate change wiped out the dinosaurs – over and done, right? Just like those large brain scientists telling us to close the country down and wear masks -both of which have now been found to be ineffective and didn’t alter the death rate one bit. Yep, settled science.

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