The Last Days of the Dinosaurs

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Duration 01:03:08

University of Edinburgh

Professor Steve Brusatte is a paleontologist at the School of GeoSciences at the University of Edinburgh in Scotland. He holds a BS in Geophysical Sciences from the University of Chicago, an MSc in Paleobiology from the University of Bristol, and a PhD in Earth and Environmental Sciences from Columbia University. A noted specialist on the anatomy, genealogy, and evolution of the carnivorous dinosaurs, like Tyrannosaurus and Velociraptor, Steve has named and described over a dozen new species of dinosaurs and mammals and has written over one hundred and fifty scientific papers. He is the author of the New York Times bestseller, The Rise and Fall of the Dinosaurs, and the science consultant for Jurassic World 3: Dominion, the forthcoming film in the Jurassic Park franchise.


This course will begin by setting the stage: what was the world like in the latest Cretaceous period, when T. rex and Triceratops ruled? Then, suddenly, the dinosaurs are gone—a mystery that has inspired and motivated paleontologists for well over a century. Did an asteroid impact really lead to the dinosaurs’ demise? When this idea was presented by the Alvarez team in 1980, it shook the scientific establishment. But some scientists believe, instead, that massive volcanic eruptions were the culprit. The asteroid vs. volcano theories have long been debated, but this class will present new evidence from the fossil record based on a study by paleontologist Steve Brusatte’s research team. He’ll make the argument that the asteroid really did cause the extinction, and explain how its short term (tsunamis, wildfires, earthquakes), mid-term (decade-long nuclear winter), and longer-term effects (2000 years of global warming) killed the dinosaurs, but spared the mammals, which led to us.


Discussion Questions:

  1. Did dinosaurs go extinct suddenly or gradually?
  2. Did a single event cause the dinosaur extinction, or was it a confluence of multiple causes?
  3. How might an asteroid impact have caused species to go extinct via short, medium, and long-term consequences?
  4. How might the modern world be different if the asteroid never hit at the end of the Cretaceous period?








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Marc Tanenbaum

A wonderful talk

Professor Brusatte updates our understanding of the evidence supporting the disappearance of the dinosaurs being attributed to a 6 mile meteor hitting the earth 66 million years ago. Fabulous talk. Very clear presentation of the evidence and various extinction hypotheses. Nicely done. I hope he will continue to present updates as his work progresses over the years.

2 years ago
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