An asteroid, the size of the Isle of Wight, that struck the earth with the force of billion Hiroshima's was behind the disappearance of the dinosaurs, a panel of 41 scientists have claimed.
According to the panel, the asteroid slammed into the Yucatan peninsula in Mexico at 20 times the speed of a bullet, causing earthquakes, landslides, tsunamis and wildfires, 65 million years ago.
The destruction was so great it left most of the world a wasteland, shrouded in dust, perpetually cold and virtually devoid of all life and vegetation, the Telegraph reported.
The dinosaurs, which had ruled for 160 million years, were wiped out in a matter of days, the panel reported in journal Science.
“Combining all available data from different science disciplines led us to conclude that a large asteroid impact 65 million years ago in modern-day Mexico was the major cause of the mass extinctions,” said Peter Schulte of University of Erlangen in Germany and lead author of the study.
Co-author of the study, Dr. Joanna Morgan of Imperial College London, said: “We now have great confidence that an asteroid was the cause of the extinction. This triggered large-scale fires, earthquakes measuring more than 10 on the Richter scale and continental landslides that caused tsunamis.
“However, the final nail in the coffin for the dinosaurs happened when blasted material was ejected at high velocity into the atmosphere. This shrouded the planet in darkness and caused a global winter, killing off many species that couldn’t adapt to this hellish environment.”
Dr Gareth Collins, Natural Environment Research Council Fellow and another co-author from Imperial College London, said: “The explosion of hot rock and gas would have looked like a huge ball of fire on the horizon, grilling any living creature in the immediate vicinity that couldn’t find shelter.
“Ironically, while this hellish day signalled the end of the 160 million year reign of the dinosaurs, it turned out to be a great day for mammals, who had lived in the shadow of the dinosaurs prior to this event.
“The extinction was a pivotal moment in earth’s history, which ultimately paved the way for humans to become the dominant species on earth.”
The key piece of proof was the discovery of a band of iridium — a metal rare on earth but common in meteorites — dating to the end of the Cretaceous Period that suggested the big space rock had smashed into the earth and blasted its remains around the globe.
Also, the fossil records clearly shows a mass extinction across the planet at about 65.5 million years ago.
The study could put an end to decades of speculation and debate over what caused the massed extinction of the dinosaurs at the end of the Cretaceous Period.
In particular, it would dispel competing theories that it was caused by volcanic eruption or climate change.
For their study, scientists had analysed the work of palaeontologists, geochemists, geophysicists, sedimentologists and climate modellers who have been collecting evidence about the extinction over the last 20 years