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Dinosaurs rose to dominance 200 million years ago after volcanic eruptions killed off their rivals, and were later wiped from the face of the Earth by a meteorite, paleontologists have found.

Volcanic gases led to an abrupt rise in global warming that decimated crurotarsans, creatures closely related to today’s crocodiles, according to a study led by Brown University paleobiologist Jessica Whiteside.

The paper, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, was the first to make the link between volcanic activity, climate change and the widespread extinction of a specific animal species.

Scientists gathered fossil evidence of plant and animal extinctions, along with the carbon signature found in the wax of ancient leaves and wood in lake sediments intermixed with basalt that marked the volcanic activity.

Through their research, they found that huge volcanic eruptions throughout the planet increased the amount of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, wiping out half of plant species and marking the end of the Triassic period, one of five great mass extinctions of Earth’s history.

The volcanic eruptions lasted about 600,000 years. But the reasons underlying dinosaurs’ survival, diversification and massive size for 160 million years while their crurotarsan foes did not evolve in a similar fashion remains a “mystery,” Whiteside told AFP.



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