Dinosaur Extinction | How did the dinosaurs die?

by TerriRexson

How did the dinosaurs die? What are the latest scientific theories on dinosaur extinction? We answer these questions in a way that kids will enjoy. Adults can learn the basics too.

"Mom, How did the dinosaurs become extinct?"

My son came into our bedroom this morning before 6am. He started playing with Lego and built a dinosaur, a volcano and a meteor. He said he thought that the dinosaurs died out because a big meteor hit the earth. This was acted out with sound effects and great enthusiasm!

He then proceeded to ask more detailed questions about how the dinosaurs died out. I had to admit I didn't have all the answers, but promised I would find out. So here are my findings.

Did All the Dinosaurs Become Extinct at the Same Time?

Dinosaurs lived during the Mesozoic era: Triassic, Jurassic, Cretaceous - see the Dinosaur Timeline. We tend to think of extinction just happening at the end of the Creataceous time period in one big event. In fact there were major extinctions at the end of each era, many dinosaur species were wiped out in earlier extinctions and didn't make it to the end of the Creataceous. 

Other species naturally became extinct due to changes in their environment - such as the disapperance of their food source. This is comparable to the plight of endangered animals today - although this time humans are involved in the environmental changes. 

The Last Dinosaurs

At the end of the Cretaceous time period the species of dinosaurs that were still around included T-Rex and Triceratops. These dinosaurs were among the last to exist, 65 million years ago. 

T-Rex was a fierce carnviore. While Triceratops was a herbivore with armor and horns to protect him from predators like Tyrannosaurus. 

T-Rex and Tyrannosaurus

The last dinosaurs
Schleich Tyrannosaurus, Moving
Schleich North America
Only $25.64
Schleich Triceratops
Schleich North America

Did Volcanic Activity Kill the Dinosaurs?

There's evidence that there was a lot of volcanic activity in prehistoric times. For a long time the theory that volcanic activity killed the dinosaurs was very popular with scientists. 

As we know from modern times, volcanoes spew out sulphur dioxide and volcanic ash. Could a huge set of volcanic eruptions have filled the air with noxious fumes and choked the dinosaurs and their food sources? 

Scientists now believe that while volcanoes may have been responsible for the deaths of many dinosaurs, including those who got in the path of molten lava, there's insufficient evidence to conclude that volcanoes were the primary cause of the mass extinction of dinosaurs. 

Watch the video below to find out how the dinosaurs really died out. Or there's a written explanation below if you would prefer. 

Dinosaur Extinction Animation

Sheppard Software

An Asteroid Killed the Dinosaurs

Or a meteor!

The currently favored theory of dinosaur extinction is that it was caused by a massive asteroid hitting the earth at Chicxulub in Mexico and creating the Chicxulub Crator. The impact was so devastating that huge amounts of debris were thrown up and filled the sky, cutting off the sun. 

Without sun the plants died, and then the animals that ate those plants, including herbivirous dinosaurs like Triceratops, became extinct. Without the herbivores to each, the carnvirous dinosaurs like T-Rex died out too. 

Of course scientists are always gathering new evidence and coming up with new theories. It's possible that they'll come up with a more accurate explanation in future. But for now this is the best explanation we have: An asteroid impact killed the dinosaurs. 

Aside: An asteroid is a huge chunk of space rock. When it enters the earth's atmosphere it's called a Meteor. Now we know!

Chicxulub Impact Visualization

Watch and learn about the asteroid impact that killed the dinosaurs

It was a Meteor

So now, I can tell my son a bit more about how the dinosaurs died out. His dinosaur scene this morning had a T-Rex being made extinct by a Meteor so he got that bit right! 

He really enjoyed learning more about how the extinction happened. And also watching video reconstruction of the meteor hitting the earth. 

We love science :-)

Make your own Meteor Science Kit

And crater!
Scientific Explorer Make Your Own Meteor Science Kit
Scientific Explorer

End Of The Dinosaurs - Tyrannosaurus - Meteorite Wall Decal

'End Of The Dinosaurs - Tyrannosaurus - Meteorite' Wall Decal - 36"...

Learn More about Dinosaurs

We've been learning more about dinosaurs from Don Lessom's book: National Geographic Kids Ultimate Dinopedia: The Most Complete Dinosaur Reference Ever. 

Don Lesson is a dinosaur expert and children's book author> He's done a great job on this book. We have it in hardback and it's much bigger than I expected when I ordered it. 

It's packed with amazing dinosaur pictures and lots of information. My nearly four year old loves to look at the pictures and my five year old likes trying to read the information (though even I struggle with some of the tricky dinosaur names!)

There's plenty of detail here to hold older kids attention too so I expect we'll be using this book for a few years. 

National Geographic Kids Ultimate Dinopedia

The Most Complete Dinosaur Reference Ever
National Geographic Kids Ultimate Dinopedia: The Most Com...
Only $31.99

More Dinosaurs

The T-Rex dinosaur is one of the best known prehistoric carnivores. Find out all about Tyrannosaurus rex.
There's a new Lego Dinosaurs range for 2012. The range includes dinosaurs and people living at the same time and some of those dinos look scary!
How did the dinosaurs die? What are the latest scientific theories on dinosaur extinction? We answer these questions in a way that kids will enjoy. Adults can learn the basics too.
Do you know a child who likes dinosaurs? Here's a collection of dinosaur science and paleontology gifts for kids who love dinosaurs and other prehistoric creatures.
Updated: 05/28/2012, TerriRexson
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TerriRexson on 06/09/2011

Thanks Paul. I should have taken a photo, but unfortunately the meteor struck before I was properly awake. :-)

pkmcr on 06/09/2011

Lovely way of covering the story and I especially liked the opening - maybe you could get Lego World to build that scenario for your son! :-)

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