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janajarowa eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Dinosaurs flourished and dominated the earth for about 186 million years, during the Mesozoic Era. Dinosaurs went extinct at the end of the Mesozoic era and at the beginning of the Paleogene period, the first period of the Cenozoic Era. About 65.5 million years ago, a giant asteroid hit the earth in Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula. It is estimated that the asteroid had a 10 km diameter and was about the size of a small town. The asteroid hit our planet so strong that, after the impact, which was 2 million times more powerful than the most powerful explosive ever detonated by humans, it formed the Chicxulub crater. The ambient temperature immediately rose in some areas to as high as 1,480 degrees Celsius, which led to the burning of forests and of all things unprotected.

The powerful impact caused several very large earthquakes. These caused volcanic eruptions, mostly in the area known as the Ring of Fire. Another consequence of the devastating earthquakes was the generation of a huge tsunami, which also contributed to the destruction of several species of animals and plants found in the impact zone of killer waves.
 
The dust that resulted from the formation of the crater and the ash that resulted from volcanic eruptions caused the formation of a cloud that surrounded the entire planet. This cloud threw Earth into a long night for several months. The immediate effect was decreased sunlight and, therefore, the disappearance of several species of plants. 
 
As a consequence, this affected herbivorous dinosaurs. A chain reaction ensued, with carnivorous predators also disappearing as their food supply dwindled.
 
Scientists consider the idea that a small percentage of dinosaurs survived this planetary cataclysm and their total disappearance was a slow process.
 
 
pholland14 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

While there are no definite answers to this question, the leading theory has to do with an asteroid strike off the coast of the Yucatan Peninsula in Mexico. This crater off the coast of Mexico has been dated to 65 million years, so it coincides approximately with the time of the last dinosaurs of the Cretaceous period. This killed the dinosaurs in the immediate vicinity of the crater due to the tidal wave and the boiling water brought forth by the asteroid. The water vapor and dust put forth in the atmosphere would have blocked out the sun and killed most of the plants at the bottom of the food chain, as well as much marine life. The temperature drop would have killed the dinosaurs as well, as they would not have been able to go for cover unlike other cold-blooded smaller reptiles and amphibians. Another theory has to do with increased volcanic activity around the Indian subcontinent. This plate boundary is still quite active today. With either scenario, scientists point to climate change as being the leading cause.  

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