October 23, 2021

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Climate Change Driven By Volcano Eruptions Helped Dinosaurs Evolve Into Dominant Species



Ecological changes driven by intense volcanic activity some 230 million years ago helped dinosaurs become the dominant species on earth, according to research.

During the Late Triassic Carnian Pluvial Episode (CPE), an increase in global temperatures and humidity had a major impact on the development of plant and animal life, while also laying down the foundation for modern ecosystems.

In a paper published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Science, researchers from the University of Birmingham provided the most compelling evidence to suggest that intense volcanic activity might have helped the dinosaurs thrive.

For years, the scientific community had debated about the reason behind the dinosaur’s abrupt demise, and whether it was a space rock or if it was intense volcanic activity. In 2010, ground-breaking research put an end to the debate and confirmed that the Chicxulub asteroid impact was the one to wipe out the dinosaurs.

Researchers analyzed fossil plant records and sediment from a lake in the Jiyuan Basin in northern China, that matched pulses of volcanic activity with environmental changes, including the “mega monsoon” that occurred during the Carnian Pluvial Episode.

According to Jason Hilton, co-author of the paper, and a professor of Palaeobotany and Paleoenvironments at the University of Birmingham, within two million years, the plant and animal life on earth underwent major changes. Few species of marine life went extinct, while plants and animals on the ground diversified. The events coincide with the period of intense rainfall known as the CPE.

Furthermore, the detailed record from the lake in North China helped them resolve the period into four distinct pulses or events. Each event was driven by discrete, powerful volcanic activity, which released enormous amounts of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. The increased concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere led to higher temperatures and humidity.

These periods of volcanic activity were relatively long and had a major impact on the plant and animal life on land. Without the event, the dinosaurs, who at the time were just beginning to diversity, wouldn’t have evolved to become the dominant species on the planet.

In addition, to help the dinosaurs evolve, the period was also significant in laying out the foundations for much of the world’s ecosystems as seen today.

Cover Image: Shutterstock



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