Dinosaur killer may have struck oil
Wednesday, 7 May 2008 Larry O'Hanlon
The dinosaur-killing Chicxulub meteor might have ignited an oilfield rather than forests when it slammed into the Gulf of Mexico 65 million years ago, say geologists.
Smoke-related particles found in sediments formed at the time of the impact are strikingly similar to those created by modern high-temperature coal and oil burning, as opposed to forest fires, says Professor Simon Brassell of Indiana University.
He and colleagues from Italy and the UK publish their report on the discovery in the May issue of the journal Geology.
Evidence of some sort of large burn that may have changed the world's climate at the end of the Cretaceous has been around since the 1980s.
But scientists can't agree on just what sort of fire it was.
"It seemed like [vegetation] wildfires were the easiest solution," recalls geochemist Professor Wendy Wolbach of DePaul University, who worked on evidence of the fires at the time.
There was even the discovery of retene, a chemical released by cone-bearing trees when they burn in forest fires today.
But that was before the Chicxulub crater had been identified.
What's more, Wolbach says, it has never been certain that the fires were global, as some have suggested.
For one thing, there has never been a lot of fossil charcoal found from that time, which would be expected if there had been so much vegetation burning.
"There isn't enough charcoal to account for that," says Brassell . . .
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