Dino-killing asteroid hit worst possible place

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If the asteroid had hit elsewhere the dinosaurs may not have been wiped out. Image Credit: NASA

The dinosaurs may not have gone extinct if the asteroid had hit almost anywhere other than where it did.

A new study has revealed just how painfully unlucky the dinosaurs actually were on the basis that the massive asteroid that hit what is now Mexico’s Yucatan peninsula 65 million years ago may not have wiped them out if the region hadn’t been so rich in hydrocarbons.

In total only 13% of the Earth’s surface would have had the potential to cause such a devastating mass extinction in the event of a large asteroid strike.

If it had hit anywhere in the other 87% the dinosaurs might never have died out at all.

The research, which was carried out by Kunio Kaiho and Naga Oshima at Tohoku University in Japan, involved calculating via a simulation how much soot and sulphate would be blasted in to the Earth’s atmosphere by an impact at various different locations with varying amount of hydrocarbons.

Map shows the amount of organic matter in sedimentary rocks that would have been ejected had the asteroid struck, and the subsequent drop in temperature

“This is a fascinating paper that… argues that even given the large size of the impactor, the mass extinction itself was of low probability,” said NASA’s Paul Chodas.

“We have often remarked on how unlucky this massive impact was for the dinosaurs, and how lucky it was for us, as the top of the mammal family, but now we have a measure of just how unlucky the dinosaurs were and how lucky we were!”

Source: The Guardian