Asteroid, Not Volcanoes, Doomed Dinosaurs: Science

Berkeley-led team's findings vindicated

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    WASHINGTON - MARCH 7: This NASA handout image is a high resolution topographic map of the Yucatan Peninsula created with data collected in the Shuttle Radar Topography Mission and released on March 7, 2003 in Washington, D.C. In the upper left portion of the peninsula, a faint arc of dark green is visible indicating the remnants of the Chicxulub impact crater. The crater was caused by a cataclysmic asteroid impact which, scientist theorize, may have caused the Cretatious-Tertiary Extinction of most life on Earth, including the dinosaurs, 65 million years ago. The Space Shuttle Endeavour flew the Shuttle Radar Topography Mission on Februay 11 to 22, 2000 and made detailed measurements of 80 percent of the Earth's landmass. (Photo by NASA/Getty Images)

    A UC Berkeley theory on how dinosaurs became extinct -- that an asteroid started a chain reaction that ultimately doomed the dinosaurs -- was confirmed in a review by the journal Science.

    The theory, first put forward by a team of researchers at Berkeley led by geologist Wilson Alvarez, argues that an asteroid slammed into Earth near the northeast corner of the Yucatan peninsula, causing massive earthquakes and sending massive amounts of sulfur into the atmosphere -- and  leading to global cooling and, ultimately, the extinction of the dinosaurs.

    However, some scientists believe that a massive volcanic eruption in India, not an asteroid, led to the mass extinction of the massive animals, and they're sticking to their guns.

    Both can agree on one thing -- the massive event, be it a volcano or an asteroid, happened hundreds of thousands of years before the actual extinction.

    In the intervening 65 million years, mammals have evolved to the point where a particularly clever cousin of the monkey has figured out how to warm the planet by burning massive amounts of dinosaur remains that had been quietly fermenting under the earth's crust -- maybe causing another global mass extinction.

    Progress!

    Jackson West hopes one day to be cloned from the DNA found in a mosquito trapped in amber.