Dinosaurs. They fascinate the minds and imaginations of children and adults alike. We are amazed by the monstrous size of some of these beasts and their fantastic teeth and claws. We have many movies and television shows depicting how they might have lived or what they could have looked like. As a Christian, I have often asked myself, and I hear this question often, “Where did all of the dinosaurs go? Were there dinosaurs with Adam and Eve after God had finished his six-day creation sequence?”
The extinction of the dinosaurs has been placed at the K/T (Cretaceous/Tertiary) boundary in the column of geologic time. This is thought to be placed around 65 Ma (million years) ago. This event caused around 70-80% of species to go extinct. Many theories have been brought up to answer the question of what caused this mass extinction event, such as global climate change disrupting the food chains, an extraterrestrial (meteor, comet, asteroid) impact creating a sort of “nuclear war,” the sun being blocked by volcanic eruptions throwing ash clouds into the atmosphere, competition of mammals, supernovas, etc. Many of these theories have been pushed aside while others have still been embraced and popularized. The most popular is the theory of an asteroid impact.
The theory of an asteroid impact killing the dinosaurs really took a foothold when Luis (Physicist) and Alfred Alvarez (geologist) discovered a peculiar layer of clay in Italy. What made this layer of clay interesting was its concentration of the rare element Iridium. Iridium is very difficult to find, yet this rare element was discovered in large amounts in a small layer of clay. What could cause this to happen? Meteorites had been known to possess relatively higher concentrations of Iridium. This gave birth to the theory of an extraterrestrial (object from space) impact. An impact site was eventually discovered in the Yucatan Peninsula near the city of Chicxulub, Mexico. Actually, the city is located in the impact crater. The crater size is measured to be approximately 180 meters wide. At the site, shocked quartz (Quartz that has been placed under significant pressure and heating. This results in a slightly different crystal structure) was discovered as well as melting of the rocks in and near the crater. According to dating, the iridium layer and the crater both met the timing of the K/T boundary and the demise of the dino’s.
Other would claim the cause of the extinction was the result of massive amounts of volcanism. At the same K/T boundary, floods of basalt lavas rushed across the Deccan Plateau in India. The volume of these flood basalts are “1 million km3 (240,000 cubic miles) and are over 2 km thick in places” and currently cover a distance of “500,000 km2 now (about 200,000 square miles)”(2). This is likely not even the full extent of the basalt as erosion has occurred. This feature is called the Deccan Traps. As the volcanoes producing these floods of lava continued to erupt, they would have also spewed large amounts of ash and gases into the atmosphere. This can produce acid rain and global cooling. These occurrences have been observed in modern volcanoes such as Tambora and Krakatoa. Tambora, a volcano in Indonesia, caused global cooling up to five degrees resulting in crop failures many problems for large sections of the world (13).
What are the evidences for these theories?
Let’s first take a look at the meteor theory. There are many impact craters around the world and asteroid impacts have been observed in historical times. Is there really a crater in the Yucatan Peninsula? There seems to be a structure that points to it being an impact crater, yes. There is also the presence of shocked quartz at the location of interest. There are also small tektites and spherules (Small glass chunks or spheres. These formed as rocks below the impact melted and cooled rapidly as they were thrown from the impact site.) that are found near the crater (2).
The problem with this theory is the age of the impact crater. The age of the of the impact in some estimates is measured to be off by 300,000 years from when the dinosaurs are said to have gone extinct (4). Also, even if the date of the impact where to perfectly match up with the supposed K/T boundary, it has been seen in the fossil record that the extinction of the dinosaurs, as well as other life, was gradual and was occurring well before the impact ever occurred (8).
(Basically, the fossils we have found show that dinosaurs are dying in relatively large amounts throughout the rock record before the alleged time of the impact. This seems to show that the impact did not cause the global extinction of the dinosaurs. However, it may have affected local populations).
In addition, many other large impact events, such as the crater in the Chesapeake Bay (roughly 85 Km in diameter), do not correlate to mass extinctions within the fossil record (14). (However the rock layers and minerals found at these sites can help us better understand impact events). Many of the other mass extinctions proposed have been attributed to volcanism or climatic change due to volcanism.
Another theory is the mass volcanism associated with the Deccan Traps. As stated earlier, the volume of the lavas expelled and the distance they covered is vast. The aerosols, gases, and ash released would block sunlight, lower temperatures, and cause massive damage to both local and global terrestrial (land) and marine fauna (animals and life). Another mass extinction, and by far the largest of them all, designated the Permian extinction (colloquially called the “Great Dying”) has been thought to be caused by a similar event to the volcanism at the Deccan Traps. Another expanse of lava and series of volcanoes in Siberia called the Siberian Traps has been linked to this extinction.
What about the Iridium layer?
The iridium seems to have not just been deposited in a single layer as thought before, but in many places it has been deposited in multiple layers.
William A.S. Sarjeant and Philip J. Currie in their study, The “Great Extinction” that never happened: the demise of the dinosaurs considered, write:
“First of all, there is not always a single, precisely defined iridium layer but quite often, instead, a broad iridium-enriched zone in the sediments. Restudies of the sites in Italy from which the iridium layer was originally reported, have shown that there was not a single iridium “spike,” but merely a horizon of peak values within a sequence of iridium-enriched clays approximately 4 m thick — a result scarcely supporting the concept of genesis resulting from impact.” (11)
Other studies have also shown to discover multiple “spikes” or layers containing iridium (1). A single layer seems to support the asteroid theory, however the presence of multiple layers seems to push the evidence towards volcanism. Kilauea, an active volcano in Hawaii, has been found to expel significant amounts of iridium into the air as well as retain large amounts in the lavas and magmas produced (10). Again, as stated earlier, large volcanoes can have global effects and can send aerosols and particulates over massive distances. This can easily explain the presence of iridium in large amounts as well the presence of multiple iridium layers.
Some also explain the demise of the dinosaurs with a combination of these two catastrophic theories or even expel the idea of a cataclysmic event entirely. Others would search for a different cause. I partially agree with it all. I agree with the evidence discovered as well as ponder a different yet similar explanation.
The book of Genesis within the Bible states that within six rotations of the earth, six periods of evening and morning, God had created the heavens and the universe as well as everything within it. If this is true, this would place dinosaurs within the category of the animals and beasts that walked the ground which were created on day six. We came shortly after them on the same day. Wait, the Bible says that Adam and Eve lived with…dinosaurs? Yes, yes it does. Where did the dinosaurs go then?
As I said before, I think a similar yet different catastrophe brought an end to the dinosaurs. Well, sort of.
According to Genesis, there was a global flood that ripped apart the world and caused all life on land, and much in the sea, to die off. Creationists claim that the mass amount of fossils we see were laid down quickly in sedimentary rocks (rocks made up of sediment, or eroded pieces of other rocks, like sandstone.) during the flood. As the flood water rose, they would have eroded and pulled apart rock and sediment already in place. These sediments would have then been re-deposited from the flood waters over the early period of the flood. This theory agrees with the evidence described above, especially with the explanation of iridium arising from volcanic activity. During the flood, mass volcanism was occurring world-wide and rapidly producing unthinkable amounts of aerosols and ash as well as flood basalts such as the Deccan and Siberian Traps. This also helps explain the multiple iridium spikes and layers as volcanism continued through parts of the flood.
(I do not disagree that there have been asteroid impacts. The evidence for impacts at suggested sites seems to assure an impact, however the explanation for a global extinction in correlation with them seems to fall short.)
However, is there any evidence for the flood and a watery grave when we find dinosaur fossils?
Yes, there is. All around the world there are features called “dinosaur bone beds.” These beds are defined as containing more than one skeleton, however, many of these bone beds contain hundreds of fossil dinosaur skeletons. Many of these bone beds are considered to have occurred due to watery events such as local floods or mud flows. These conditions are deduced from the lack of general weathering of the bones, the preservation, the fragmentation, and the origin of the sediment around the bones (16). There are large layers in Montana and Colorado, for example, that contain massive amounts of Jurassic age dinosaur skeletons. Many times, the bones of a single skeleton are not in a single spot. They are often scattered amongst the bones of the many other skeletons. These bones are also often fractured and broken up hinting at transportation by water (16). However, the local explanation seems to fall short due to the global recognition of these beds. The Genesis flood can explain this. As the flood waters rose and rushed across the lands, the dinosaurs would have fled in mass groups and been buried in mass groups.
Andrew Snelling, in his book Earth’s Catastrophic Past, provides several examples of other “fossil graveyards” such as brachiopods (similar to mollusks and bivalves), trilobites, dinosaurs, fish, etc. in locations from America to Australia (17). There are hordes of other examples of bone beds and fossil graveyards all around the world. The fact that these features are global as well as the general theme of a watery grave may be evidence of a world-wide flood. We also see modern evidence for a flood explanation. During tsunamis or large storms, huge waves of water sweep up hundreds of organisms onto beaches. When the waters recede, crabs, fish, shells, etc. are all clumped in the sand. If sediment were to be rapidly deposited on these creatures, fossils may be formed that look very similar to the ones I have just described.
Other evidences lie in the discovery of dinosaur tracks. These tracks have been found in sedimentary layers in many locations around the world. Michael J. Oard discusses this in his talk, Behemoths Buried Alive. He explains how these tracks seem to be found in a single local bedding plane. He also explains how many of these track ways are in a relatively straight line. He states that this general pattern suggests the dinosaurs that made them were running in a straight line to flee from something. He uses the image of hunting modern animals by using their tracks. These tracks are normally eratic and random as the creature grazes and moves along. Once spooked, the animal darts away in a fairly straight path. He cites the evidence that the tracks are well-preserved, and therefore buried quickly by rapidly deposited sediments, most likely by water. These evidences: the rock type, preservation, and the general pattern of the tracks, Oard claims, point to a global flood (16).
Oard also brings up the topic of fossilized dinosaur eggs. He points out that the eggs, just like the tracks, tend to be on a single bedding plane. Also, normally, the eggs would’ve been in a laid in a bowl-like nest. These features are not normally found. Eggs are also often found without any vegetation that would have been used to construct a nest or would have grown in ares near nests (16).
What does this mean? This can be answered by what we would see during the flood. As freshly deposited sediments were being deposited as waters rose and receded before reaching their peak level, the remaining dinosaurs struggled to survive. Foot prints were left in the soft sediments and eggs were laid on flat ground as local drops in water levels occurred dur to tectonics and tides. As the waters continued to rise once more, additional sediment was deposited rapidly, covering and preserving these features (16).
(This phenomenon is called BEDS or Briefly Exposed Diluvial Sediments. This describes the slight rise and fall of flood waters in local areas during the flood. This would briefly reveal the freshly laid sediments and allow organisms struggling to stay afloat or swim a chance to stand on “solid” ground. Eggs were laid and tracks were made before the waters again rose, covering these features and killing the dinosaurs.)
So was it an asteroid or a volcanic eruption that caused the dinosaurs to go extinct? Or was it possibly both encompassed by global flood described in Genesis? The evidences for a watery grave for the dinosaurs seems to paint a picture of the last days of the dinosaurs as they raced to escape the impending flood waters. The impacts and volcanoes left behind show us how powerful and globally devastating the Genesis flood truly was.
- Rochia, R., Boclet, D., Bonte, P., Castellarin, A., Courtillot, V., & Jehanno, C. (n.d.). On the Existence of Several Iridium-enriched Layers at the K-T Boundary and in a Jurassic Sequence. Retrieved February 15, 2017, from http://adsabs.harvard.edu/full/1989LPI….20..914R
- Cowen, R. (n.d.). THE K-T EXTINCTION. Retrieved February 15, 2017, from http://www.ucmp.berkeley.edu/education/events/cowen1b.html
- Botzer, A. (2004, March 9). Yucatan Asteroid Didn’t Kill Dinosaurs, Study Says. Retrieved February 15, 2017, from http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2004/03/0309_040309_chicxulubdinos_2.html
- Wieland, C. (n.d.). Book review: The Great Dinosaur Extinction Controversy. Retrieved February 15, 2017, from http://creation.com/book-review-the-great-dinosaur-extinction-controversyhttp://www.livescience.com/28186-krakatoa.html
- History.com Staff. (2010). Why Did the Dinosaurs Die Out? Retrieved February 16, 2017, from http://www.history.com/topics/why-did-the-dinosaurs-die-out
- University of California Museum of Paleontology. (n.d.). Volcanic activity and mass extinction. Retrieved February 15, 2017, from http://evolution.berkeley.edu/evolibrary/article/0_0_0/massextinct_09
- Oard, M. J. (n.d.). Is the demise of the dinosaurs by a Yucatán impact a myth? Retrieved February 15, 2017, from https://creation.com/images/pdfs/tj/j18_1/j18_1_6-8.pdf
- Smit, J. (n.d.). THE GLOBAL STRATIGRAPHY OF THE CRETACEOUS-TERTIARY BOUNDARY IMPACT EJECTA. Retrieved February 16, 2017, from ftp://dns.soest.hawaii.edu/gravizza/ForJess/Smit%20Ann%20Rev%2099.pdf
- Olmez, I., Finnegan, D. L., & Zoller, W. H. (1986). Iridium emissions from Kilauea Volcano [Abstract]. Journal of Geophysical Research, 91(B1). doi:10.1029/jb091ib01p00653
- Sarjeant, W. A., & Currie, P. J. (2001). The “Great Extinction” that never happened: the demise of the dinosaurs considered. Canadian Journal of Earth Sciences, 38(2), 239-247. doi:10.1139/e00-077
- Walker, T. (n.d.). Huge dinosaurs flee rising waters of Noah’s Flood in Australia. Retrieved February 19, 2017, from http://creation.com/kimberley-dinosaur-footprints
- Bagley, M. (2013, March 26). Krakatoa Volcano: Facts About 1883 Eruption. Retrieved February 15, 2017, from http://www.livescience.com/28186-krakatoa.html
- Shirley, J. S. (n.d.). The Chesapeake Bay Bolide Impact: A New View of Coastal Plain Evolution. Retrieved February 14, 2017, from https://pubs.usgs.gov/fs/fs49-98/
- Oard, M. J. (n.d.). Watery catastrophe deduced from huge Ceratopsian dinosaur graveyard. Retrieved February 17, 2017, from http://creation.com/watery-catastrophe-deduced-from-huge-ceratopsian-dinosaur-graveyard
- Michael Oard’s presentation on the Genesis Flood and dinosaurs. Beheamoths Buried Alive.
- Snelling, A. (2014). Earth’s Catastrophic Past: Geology, Creation, & the Flood (Vol. 2). Green Forest, AR: Master Books.