How The Dinosaurs Actually Died

Kurzgesagt – In a Nutshell
26 Mar 202411:39


TLDRThe video script explores the extinction of dinosaurs, challenging the widely accepted asteroid impact theory. It presents an alternative hypothesis involving the Deccan Traps, volcanic eruptions that released massive amounts of CO2 and sulfur dioxide, causing global ecological devastation. The script discusses the timeline of events leading to the mass extinction and raises questions about whether the dinosaurs would have survived if not for the asteroid. It also draws parallels with other mass extinctions linked to volcanic activity, suggesting a pattern of catastrophic events from within the Earth's interior.


  • 🌏 The script discusses a theory that challenges the common belief of an asteroid causing the extinction of dinosaurs, proposing a volcanic event as a possible cause.
  • 💥 Witnesses suggest an 'Everest-sized asteroid' hit Earth, leading to a mass extinction event, but new evidence points to a different possibility.
  • 🌋 The Deccan Traps, a volcanic region in India, began emitting significant amounts of CO2 and sulfur dioxide around 800,000 years before the asteroid impact.
  • 🌿 The Earth 66 million years ago was vastly different, with lush jungles, oversized animals, and dinosaurs dominating the planet.
  • 🔥 About 300,000 years before the asteroid impact, the Deccan Traps started a massive lava flow and increased volcanic activity, leading to widespread destruction.
  • 🌡️ The volcanic activity caused a fluctuation in global temperatures, with initial warming followed by a cooling period, stressing ecosystems and leading to mass extinctions.
  • 🌊 The eruptions also resulted in acid rain, devastating wildfires, and possibly hypercanes that could reach into the stratosphere and damage the ozone layer.
  • 🌍 The asteroid impact, while catastrophic, may have been the final blow to an already struggling ecosystem, rather than the sole cause of the extinction event.
  • 🦅 Dinosaurs were wiped out, but birds are their descendants and the only surviving dinosaurs, providing a small remnant of their once-great diversity.
  • 🔍 The exact cause of the dinosaur extinction remains a topic of scientific debate, with evidence suggesting that large volcanic events may have contributed to multiple mass extinctions throughout Earth's history.

Q & A

  • What is the primary theory for the extinction of dinosaurs?

    -The primary theory for the extinction of dinosaurs is the impact of a massive asteroid that hit Earth approximately 66 million years ago.

  • What is the alternative theory proposed for the dinosaur extinction?

    -An alternative theory suggests that the Deccan Traps, a volcanic region, released massive amounts of CO2 and sulfur dioxide, leading to a series of catastrophic environmental changes that contributed to the extinction of dinosaurs.

  • How did the Deccan Traps affect the Earth's climate?

    -The Deccan Traps released large quantities of greenhouse gases over a long period, causing a wave of heating followed by a period of cooling, which stressed ecosystems and led to acid rain and ocean acidification.

  • What were the immediate effects of the Deccan Traps' eruptions on India?

    -The immediate effects included massive wildfires, toxic fumes, and the poisoning of coastal regions, leading to the eradication of local ecosystems and the death of many dinosaurs.

  • What is the significance of the asteroid impact in relation to the Deccan Traps' activity?

    -The asteroid impact occurred around the same time the Deccan Traps were active, complicating the understanding of which event was the primary cause of the mass extinction.

  • How did the asteroid impact contribute to the extinction event?

    -The asteroid impact would have caused a massive shock to the Earth's ecosystems, potentially exacerbating the effects of the Deccan Traps' emissions and leading to further devastation.

  • What is the evidence suggesting that large volcanic events have coincided with mass extinctions?

    -Evidence from Earth's history shows that at least four of the five major mass extinctions occurred during periods of significant volcanic activity, indicating a possible pattern of these events leading to extinctions.

  • What was the Permian mass extinction, and what caused it?

    -The Permian mass extinction, the worst in Earth's history, occurred 250 million years ago and was caused by the Siberian Traps, which released a massive flood of lava, killing 95% of all species on Earth.

  • How do scientists determine the timeline of events leading to the extinction of dinosaurs?

    -Scientists use various dating methods and analyze geological and fossil evidence to reconstruct the sequence of events and the timing of volcanic eruptions and asteroid impacts.

  • What is the current understanding of whether dinosaurs were doomed by the Deccan Traps or if the asteroid impact was the deciding factor?

    -The current understanding is that the combination of the Deccan Traps' volcanic activity and the asteroid impact likely contributed to the extinction of dinosaurs, but the exact role each played is still a subject of scientific debate.

  • How can we be prepared for potential future volcanic or asteroid threats?

    -Scientists monitor the Earth's interior and asteroid trajectories to provide early warnings of potential threats, allowing for time to prepare and mitigate the impacts.



🌍 Asteroid or Volcano: The Dinosaurs' Demise

This paragraph introduces the mystery surrounding the extinction of dinosaurs, traditionally attributed to an asteroid impact. However, new evidence suggests an alternative theory - that a massive, slow-moving 'liquid asteroid' or a series of volcanic eruptions known as the Deccan Traps, may have played a significant role. The paragraph sets the stage for a detailed exploration of these theories and the evidence supporting them.


🌋 The Awakening of the Deccan Traps

This section delves into the theory that the Deccan Traps, a vast volcanic region, may have contributed to the extinction of dinosaurs. It describes how the Traps began emitting CO2 and sulfur dioxide about 800,000 years before the asteroid impact, leading to a prolonged period of environmental stress and ecosystem damage. The paragraph outlines the progression of the volcanic activity, from the initial quiet emissions to the eventual global catastrophe, and how it may have led to the collapse of food chains and the death of many species.


🚀 The Aftermath and the Asteroid Impact

The paragraph discusses the aftermath of the volcanic activity and the subsequent asteroid impact. It paints a vivid picture of the extreme conditions on Earth following the eruptions, including wildfires, earthquakes, and hypercanes. The paragraph then describes the asteroid impact as the 'final blow' to an already struggling ecosystem, leading to a mass extinction event. It also touches on the ongoing scientific debate about whether the dinosaurs would have survived if not for the asteroid, and suggests that the Earth's history may be marked by similar catastrophic events.

🧩 Unraveling the Past with KiwiCo

This paragraph shifts focus from the historical mystery to a present-day activity - a project crate from KiwiCo, a company that provides educational kits for children. It describes the contents of the crate, which includes a robot crab project, and highlights the educational value of such activities. The paragraph emphasizes the importance of exploration, learning, and hands-on experiences, and encourages viewers to try KiwiCo with a promotional code for a discount.




An asteroid is a large, rocky object that orbits the sun. In the context of the video, it is suggested that an asteroid impact may have contributed to the extinction of the dinosaurs. The script describes an 'Everest-sized asteroid' that hit Earth and caused a mass extinction, which is a central theme in discussing the 'murder' of the dinosaurs.

💡Deccan Traps

The Deccan Traps are a large igneous province in western India, known for their extensive volcanic activity. In the video, they are presented as a potential cause of the dinosaurs' extinction due to their prolonged volcanic eruptions and release of harmful gases, which is an alternative theory to the asteroid impact.

💡mass extinction

Mass extinction refers to a widespread and rapid decrease in the number of species on Earth due to a major catastrophe. In the video, the term is used to describe the event that led to the disappearance of the dinosaurs and many other species, making it the central focus of the narrative.


The Cretaceous is a geological period that lasted from approximately 145 to 66 million years ago. It is the last period of the Mesozoic Era and is known for the dominance of dinosaurs. The video refers to the 'last days of the Cretaceous' to describe the time just before the mass extinction that ended the reign of the dinosaurs.


Ecosystems are communities of living organisms interacting with each other and their physical environment. The video discusses how the volcanic activity and asteroid impact disrupted ecosystems, leading to the extinction of many species, including dinosaurs.


Hypercanes are hypothetical, extremely powerful tropical cyclones that could have existed during periods of intense volcanic activity. In the video, hypercanes are mentioned as a possible consequence of the Deccan Traps' eruptions, with winds strong enough to reach into the stratosphere and potentially damage the ozone layer.


Plankton are small organisms that drift in the ocean's currents and form the base of the marine food web. The video highlights the importance of plankton to the health of the oceans, noting that their extinction due to acidification would lead to a mass extinction event.

💡 Permian mass extinction

The Permian mass extinction, also known as the Great Dying, occurred around 250 million years ago and was the most severe extinction event in Earth's history. The video suggests that similar to the extinction of the dinosaurs, the Permian mass extinction may have been caused by extensive volcanic activity, specifically the Siberian Traps.

💡solar radiation

Solar radiation refers to the electromagnetic energy emitted by the sun, which reaches the Earth's surface and can have various effects on the environment and living organisms. In the video, it is mentioned that the ozone layer could have been damaged by hypercanes, leading to increased exposure to harmful solar radiation, which would have negative consequences for life on Earth.

💡acid rain

Acid rain is rain that has a pH value less than 5.65, which is lower than that of unpolluted rainwater. It is caused by emissions of sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxides, which react with the atmosphere to form sulfuric acid and nitric acid. In the video, acid rain is one of the disastrous consequences of the Deccan Traps' volcanic activity, contributing to the mass extinction event.


KiwiCo is a company that provides project crates for children, covering various topics such as science, mechanics, biology, and more. In the video, KiwiCo is mentioned as a sponsor, and their project crates are used as an example of engaging educational tools that encourage learning through hands-on activities.


A new perspective on the extinction of dinosaurs is presented, challenging the widely accepted asteroid impact theory.

An Everest-sized asteroid is traditionally believed to have caused the mass extinction event, but new evidence suggests an alternative culprit.

The Deccan Traps, a volcanic region in India, is proposed as a potential cause for the mass extinction due to its massive emissions over a long period.

The volcanic activity of the Deccan Traps began around 800,000 years before the asteroid impact, releasing significant amounts of CO2 and sulfur dioxide.

The initial emissions from the Deccan Traps were not immediately catastrophic, but their persistence over half a million years led to a dangerous accumulation in the atmosphere.

About 300,000 years before the asteroid impact, the Deccan Traps started to release lava, causing widespread destruction and toxic fumes.

The volcanic eruptions led to a wave of heating, with oceans getting at least 2ºC hotter in just 100,000 years, stressing ecosystems.

Following the initial warming, a period of cooling occurred due to uneven mixing of gases, further stressing ecosystems that were trying to adapt to the hotter temperatures.

Sulfur in the atmosphere fell as acid rain, and CO2 acidified the oceans, killing plankton and disrupting the marine food web, leading to a massive extinction.

The Deccan Traps' eruptions lasted for several thousand years, causing massive wildfires, earthquakes, tsunamis, and possibly hypercanes with winds reaching almost 1000 km/h.

The ozone layer was damaged by these hypercanes, exposing life on Earth to harmful sun radiation and exacerbating the extinction event.

Giant clouds of mercury and hydrochloric acid further poisoned the environment, delivering the final blow to the remnants of the once-thriving world.

The asteroid impact, while devastating, may have been the final blow to an already struggling ecosystem, rather than the sole cause of the extinction.

Scientists are still debating whether the dinosaurs were doomed by the volcanic activity alone or if the asteroid impact contributed significantly to their demise.

The pattern of mass extinctions coinciding with volcanic activity suggests that the Earth's interior may harbor a 'serial killer' responsible for multiple extinction events.

The Siberian Traps, a similar volcanic event 250 million years ago, caused the Permian mass extinction, killing 95% of all species on Earth.

While the 'monster' beneath our feet is real, it is currently dormant, and scientists would have ample warning if it were to awaken again.



A ruthless murder was committed! Someone killed  the dinosaurs and we have the murderer! Witnesses  


say that an Everest-sized asteroid hit  Earth, devastated the planet and caused  


a mass extinction. A simple, fascinating  and convincing explanation. Or… is it?


In the last few years, new evidence has  reinvigorated an older theory pointing  


at a second suspect. A very slow and  liquid asteroid, 1000 times bigger,  


hitting earth on the opposite side of the planet.  Like the true crime channel we are, let us look  


at the new evidence and tell a different story  that could change everything we thought we knew…


The Last Days of a Kingdom


66 million years ago, Earth was barely  recognizable. It was the last days of the  


Cretaceous, one of the hottest periods  in Earth’s history and much more humid.  


Lush jungles and woodlands covered much  of the planet. Even the polar regions  


were home to forests of prehistoric  pines and ferns. Amazing ecosystems  


that were robust enough to survive the many  months of darkness during the polar night.


Oversized animals were everywhere.  Pterosaurs filled the skies,  


marine lizards and long necked monsters up to  15 meters long swam in the oceans. And on land,  


basically everything larger than one meter  was a dinosaur – one of the most successful  


animals ever to walk Earth, dominating  the world for more than 150 million years.


And then they were murdered. All  these majestic creatures vanished  


in a split-second of geological time. Why?


Yes, it is true that at around that time a big  asteroid hit Earth. But… was this actually what  


killed the dinosaurs? Or did it arrive just in  time to get all the blame? Because according to  


some recent science, just before the asteroid  struck, an ancient nightmare, older than even  


the dinosaurs, decided to destroy the world.  Let us look at how it might have done it.


The Beast Slowly Awakens


The ancient continents almost resembled  the world of today but not quite. India  


was still a continent-sized tropical island  full of lush rainforests and exotic life,  


on its way to smash into Asia. But this paradise  also hosted something else. The Deccan Traps – a  


volcanic region a thousand kilometers wide and  about to come to life in a dramatic fashion.


The apocalypse began quietly and silently.  About 800,000 years before the impact,  


the Deccan Traps began to exhale about  10 million tonnes of CO2 and sulfur  


dioxide each year. Which in the grand  scheme of things was not that much,  


so for a long time no one noticed. The  problem was, these emissions wouldn’t  


stop. For half a million years, they started  to dangerously pile up in the atmosphere.


About 300,000 years before the asteroid, the  Deccan Traps started to vomit lava. This was  


nothing like a normal eruption – it was  a lava flood. Imagine a landscape with  


volcanos stretching beyond the horizon. They were  constantly active, releasing a steady flow of  


massive amounts of poison and lava, interrupted  by much more violent and deadly eruptions.


The lush paradise of India was the first victim  as gigantic clouds spread toxic fumes and poisoned  


the coastal regions. Clouds of ash darkened the  sky as rivers of magma started massive wildfires,  


eradicating many local ecosystems and  paving the continent with dead dinosaurs.


Still, at this point it all looked like  a local catastrophe – one of many that  


have hit our planet over its billions of  years of history. Had it stopped here,  


there might still be dinosaurs today. But  the nightmare hadn’t even begun yet. .


The Beast Turns Furious


The Deccan Traps would just not stop  spewing lava. And so, after hundreds of  


thousands of years of never ending volcanic  emissions, the catastrophe became global.


First the planet experienced a wave of heating,  


with oceans getting at least 2ºC hotter  in just 100,000 years. Which is bad,  


but just about the timeframe that  leaves ecosystems a chance to adapt.


But then nature would pull a cruel  prank. Some of the gasses of the Deccan  


Traps heated the planet up, while others  cooled it down. But the mix was uneven,  


so after the initial warming,  a period of cooling followed,  


massively stressing the ecosystems that barely  managed to adapt to the hotter temperatures.


At the same time, the sulfur in the  atmosphere came back down as acid rain,  


while the CO2 was acidifying the oceans  and killing the plankton – which was,  


and still is today, the basis of the food web  in the oceans. And if plankton disappears,  


a massive extinction is all but guaranteed.


But now the grand finale was about to  begin. About 50,000 years before impact,  


the true apocalypse came. Like a cosmic  horror breaking out of its prison,  


the Deccan Traps roared and screamed and  began to spew out tens of trillions of  


tons of magma and even more deadly gasses  in an onslaught that lasted for several  


thousand years. Rolling over ecosystems,  devastating everything they reached.


For a time as long as all of human civilization,  this lava armageddon brought massive wildfires.  


Earthquakes and tsunamis smashed and shook  the continent. So much heat was released from  


the roaring hot interior of our planet that it  might have created hypercanes – cyclones tens  


of kilometers wide, with winds reaching  almost 1000 km/h – 3 times more than the  


deadliest hurricane ever recorded by humanity.  These storms were so massive and intense that  


they could reach tens of kilometers into the  stratosphere and rip holes into the ozone layer,  


with devastating consequences for all  life, now without protection from the sun’s  


radiation. And of course, where the hyper storms  occurred, devastation and death would follow.


And if all this wasn’t enough, out of the  guts of the earth came colossal amounts of  


venom. Giant clouds loaded with mercury and  hydrochloric acid rolled over the planet,  


delivering the final blow to the remnants  of a once magnificent and fertile world. As  


food chains crumbled and the whole world  around them collapsed, some of the last  


dinosaurs to ever walk the Earth may have died  vomiting toxic foam while being bathed in acid  


rain. A cruel end for the members of a noble  family that had ruled the world for so long.


Then, it just ended. The frenetic eruptions slowed  down and the endless natural disasters began to  


fade away. But the world was changed forever.  The monster had left unfathomable devastation  


and corpses in its wake. Even the planet’s  ecosystems far away were severely wounded. It was  


the end of a whole geological era. A murder that  started slowly and then turned loud and violent.


And then it happened.


Like a cosmic joke, on the other side of the  world, a bright dot of light appeared in the sky.  


And an instant later, an asteroid 10 km across  smashed into earth with the power of 4 billion  


atomic bombs. If you want to see what this was  like, we made a whole video about it. If life on  


earth was like a murder victim barely holding  on, this was the final blow. Just too much.


After the massacre, on the  other side of the world,  


the Deccan Traps went on expelling tens  of trillions of tons of deadly gasses  


for another 800,000 years, making sure the  devastated planet stayed covered in poison.


When they eventually finished  and truly went back to sleep,  


75% of all species on Earth had perished. Most  famously almost all dinosaurs. Except – birds,  


the only dinos that are still with us today.  Their stunning beauty and diversity are a shy  


reminder of how majestic and wonderful  their larger cousins must have been.


So Who Was the Murderer?


Were the dinosaurs doomed by the  traps? Or would they have survived  


without the asteroid? Was it teamwork? Well,  we don’t know. Scientists have been fiercely  


debating this question for years, but  for now we have no definite answer.


The timeline of events that we’ve shown here is  based on some of the most recent reconstructions  


of the evolution of the Deccan Traps. There are  other ones that paint a different picture but  


right now scientists are still fiercely arguing  over this, check our sources to learn more.


So like much of true crime, we can’t end this  story with an easy and satisfying resolution.


Time has the nasty habit of erasing evidence,  so maybe we’ll never really know. But there is  


something else hidden in the dust, something  truly terrifying. As we learn more and more  


about the past, we found that at least 4 of  the 5 big mass extinctions happened at the  


same time as the Earth was furiously  spewing gargantuan amounts of magma.  


The monster that might have killed the  dinosaurs seems to be a serial killer.


The worst massacre ever, the Permian  mass extinction 250 million years ago,  


was caused by the Siberian Traps – a hellish  flood of lava that killed 95% of all the  


species on earth, almost bringing life to  its knees. Until recently, many scientists  


thought that this was an outlier, but new  evidence suggests it may have been the rule.


Other big mass extinctions happened when  the monster awoke from its sleep and the  


longer and more violently it rampaged, the more  slaughter we can see in the fossil record. So  


maybe the dinosaurs were not massacred  by a casual murderer from outer space,  


but by a serial killer hiding beneath our feet.


Do you need to worry about all of this?


Definitely not. While the monster is real, it is  amazingly slow and currently very sleepy. If it  


were about to awake again, scientists monitoring  the Earth’s interior would get a warning really  


early – maybe even millions of years in advance.  Time enough to prepare and move out of the way.


Enough about mysteries of the past  and onto puzzles in the present!


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Related Tags
Dinosaur ExtinctionVolcanic ActivityAsteroid ImpactDeccan TrapsMass ExtinctionPrehistoric EcosystemsGeological EventsScientific DebateEarth's HistoryNatural Disasters