Paleontologist Finds Evidence That Meteorite Strike Near Mumbai May Have Wiped Out Dinosaurs

Imagine a meteorite more than 25 miles wide hurtling toward Earth at 36,000 miles per hour. The impact would create mass extinctions, perpetual night for more than a year, tsunamis and massive volcanic activity.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

DATE: Nov. 15, 2006

CONTACT: John Davis, john.w.davis@ttu.edu

(806) 742-2136

INDIA’S SHIVA CRATER REVEALS POSSIBLE REASONS FOR EXTINCTION

LUBBOCK – Imagine a meteorite more than 25 miles wide hurtling toward Earth at 36,000 miles per hour. The impact would create mass extinctions, perpetual night for more than a year, tsunamis and massive volcanic activity.

This scenario is more than just fiction, said Sankar Chatterjee, curator of paleontology at the Museum of Texas Tech University. In fact, the exact scenario played out 65 million years ago near present-day Mumbai, India, and could be the smoking gun that ended the dinosaurs’ reign on Earth.

Though many scientists attributed the dinosaur extinction to the Chicxulub Crater off the coast of Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula, Princeton University scientists recently refuted this theory because evidence showed that meteor struck 300,000 years before the demise of dinosaurs.

However, Chatterjee and his colleagues recently published further evidence from the Indian impact site, known as the Shiva Crater, which suggests the meteorite struck at the same time as the mass extinction and created enough catastrophic force to destroy 70 percent of Earth’s plant and animal communities on land and in the seas.

For the past 10 years, Chatterjee has used geophysical evidence and core samples collected by oil companies to reconstruct the Shiva Crater – a massive 300-mile-wide pock mark with peaks as high as Mount Everest. Though the actual crater is covered by more than five miles of sediment, Chatterjee says the geological evidence he collected allowed him to map out the crater.

Also, the impact might be connected with massive volcanic activity on the Indian Continent, he said. This sudden activity, known as the Deccan Trap, resulted in half a million cubic miles of lava flooding the western part of India in a short amount of time. The greatest lava event coincides with the meteorite.

“The Shiva impact made the western coast of India seismically active and caused the plate movement separating India from the Seychelles Island,” Chatterjee said, adding that the meteorite probably led to the sudden northward acceleration of the Indian plate, then a continent located south of the equator, to collide with Asia and form the Himalayas.

“The Shiva projectile was about 25 miles across,” Chatterjee said. “With a meteorite of this magnitude, it would create a huge crater as soon as it hit the surface. Rocks would be vaporized and send dust and debris into the air that would block out the sun.”

The fallout from the meteorite, which Chatterjee calculated to have 10,000 times more force than the detonation of the world’s entire nuclear arsenal, would place the world into perpetual night for more than a year. Red-hot rock would rain from the skies, sparking massive global forest fires and causing acid rain that would kill shelled organisms in the oceans and cause massive collapse of the food chain.

“Anything bigger than 25 pounds was wiped out,” he said. “Animals that lived in the river water, such as crocodiles and alligators, survived, but most animals on land and in the oceans were the main victims.”

The peer-reviewed study was published by Special Publications at the Natural Science Research Laboratory of Museum of Texas Tech University. Access the .pdf file for the Shiva Crater report here.

CONTACT: Dr. Sankar Chatterjee, curator of paleontology at the Museum of Texas Tech and Horn professor of Geosciences, (806) 742-1986, sankar.chatterjee@ttu.edu.