Cover image for The end of the dinosaurs : Chicxulub crater and mass extinctions
The end of the dinosaurs : Chicxulub crater and mass extinctions
Frankel, Charles.
Personal Author:
Uniform Title:
Mort des dinosaures. English
Publication Information:
Cambridge ; New York : Cambridge University Press, 1999.
Physical Description:
xii, 223 pages : illustrations, maps ; 24 cm
Geographic Term:
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
QE506 .F7313 1999 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks

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The End of the Dinosaurs gives a detailed account of the great mass extinction that rocked the Earth 65 million years ago, and focuses on the discovery of the culprit: the Chicxulub impact crater in Mexico. It recounts the birth of the cosmic hypothesis, the controversy that preceded its acceptance, the search for the crater, its discovery and ongoing exploration, and the effect of the giant impact on the biosphere. Other mass extinctions in the fossil record are reviewed, as is the threat of asteroids and comets to our planet today. The account of the impact and its aftermath is suitable for general readers. The description of the crater geology is in enough detail to interest students of the earth sciences. A detailed index and bibliography are included.

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

The popular solution to the great dino murder mystery holds that an asteroid is the smoking gun. A competing culprit is smoking volcanoes. These briefs for the prosecution of each villain are both readable gateways to one of the more accessible controversies in contemporary science. A beleaguered voice in geology now that Walter Alvarez's impact theory (T. Rex and the Crater of Doom, 1997) has become the new orthodoxy, Courtillot's theory that volcanic eruptions tipped the environment against the dinosaurs is concisely ventilated here. The idea grew when his paleomagnetic dating team showed that the Deccan Traps in India erupted about the same time as T. rex expired, about 65 million years ago. Such traps (provinces of lava that flooded and solidified) correlate to hot spots, and when Courtillot rewinds the plate tectonics tape, he notices traps the world over approximate the time of other mass extinctions. For a triggering mechanism, he suggests the reversal of the earth's magnetic field, a provocative idea for the young geologists Courtillot hopes his book will inspire. A piece of precise, supple, open-minded analysis. Frankel, by contrast, writes a case-closed but still highly interesting version of how various evidence fingered the buried Chicxulub crater in Mexico as the relic of the dinosaurs' doom. The now-famous K-T boundary layer of clay in Italy and elsewhere had a concentration of iridium from which could be deduced the size of an asteroid and its resultant crater. Where was it? Shocked quartz narrowed the search to the Gulf of Mexico, and the bull's-eye was duly discovered. Frankel nods dismissively toward Courtillot's volcanism position, then surveys catastrophism's mark in other earthly craters, and uncomfortably close in the recent comet collision with Jupiter. A fluid, enthusiastic summary of the impact school's views. --Gilbert Taylor

Publisher's Weekly Review

Approximately 65 million years ago, at the close of the Cretaceous era, Earth underwent a major bout of extinctions. Seventy percent of all species, including all of the dinosaurs, died out in a relatively short time. In this attractive volume, Frankel (Volcanoes of the Solar System) attempts to pinpoint the cause of this devastation. Summarizing a wealth of scientific information, he argues that either a comet or a huge asteroid slammed into Earth near Puerto Chicxulub, Mexico, releasing a massive amount of energy. The smoke from the enormous fires that ensued, coupled with the colossal amount of debris flung into the atmosphere by the impact, blocked sunlight, changed climate worldwide and led to the extinctions. A true science detective, Frankel marshals his facts, outlines the search for culprits, describes the scene of the crime and portrays the other sleuths on the case. He gives short shrift to alternative explanations (such as volcanic activity) for the mass extinction, however. His well-informed book, initially published in France in an earlier version, concludes with one chapter providing inconclusive evidence linking many of Earth's other major extinction events to impacts, and another chapter discussing steps that can be taken to avert future collisions. 67 halftones, nine line diagrams. (Sept.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Choice Review

Although this book displays the word "dinosaur" prominently in its title, it is largely about the discovery and identification of a specific asteroid that collided with Earth at about the time when the last of the nonavian dinosaurs disappeared. In this well-researched and -documented book, readers learn of the contributions of individual scientists and the different research techniques used to identify a particular crater in time and place. Although asteroid collisions with Earth have been known for many years, identifying a specific impact is a complex matter involving many types of evidence. Frankel not only examines the effects on climate and the fauna/flora of lands and seas at the time of impact for the Chicxulub crater (contemporaneous with the last dinosaurs) but also reviews the history of mass extinctions throughout geologic history. But while he carefully documents arguments for and against asteroid impacts versus volcanism, he fails to provide the same careful examination of the evidence for and against dinosaur extinction as a result solely of collision with an asteroid and does not discuss dissenting paleontologic views. Although this is a major drawback, the overall physical and chemical evidence related to the Chicxulub crater is carefully presented. General readers; undergraduates. D. Bardack; University of Illinois at Chicago

Table of Contents

1 The night of the dinosaurs
2 A detectiveÆs diary
3 A controversial idea
4 Looking for the crater
5 Chicxulub Crater
6 A Cataclysmic Event
7 Waiting for the comet