Some 200 million years ago, Earth was on the verge of either an age of dinosaurs or an age of crocodiles. It took the largest volcanic eruption in the solar system — and the loss of half of Earth’s plant life — to tip the scales in the dinos’ favor, say researchers.
The idea is not new, but connecting the eruption to a 200-million-year-old mass extinction event has not been easy. Now that link is confirmed in an exhaustive new study published in the latest Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
The research looks at ancient plant substances and other evidence in lake and ocean sediments from both sides of the 3.5 million-square-mile Central Atlantic Magmatic Province (CAMP) eruption zone, better known nowadays as the Atlantic Ocean.
“We weren’t convinced that volcanism caused the extinctions,” said paleobiologist Jessica Whiteside of Brown University.
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