Actually no – at least, not according to Professor Gerta Keller.
Far from being some crackpot with a whacky theory she read on the internet and decided to push, Professor Keller has worked as a Professor of Paleontology and Geology in the Geosciences Department of Princeton University since 1984.
And Professor Keller is adamant that it was not a massive asteroid – said in 2010 by a panel of 41 experts to have been 10 kilometres wide, which slammed into the planet with “about a billion times more energy than the atomic bombs dropped on Hiroshima” – that caused the dinosaurs to go extinct.
“It’s like a fairy tale: ‘Big rock from sky hits the dinosaurs, and boom they go.’ And it has all the aspects of a really nice story,” Professor Keller told The Atlantic.
“It’s just not true.”
So what does the professor propose really happened to the dinosaurs?
Specifically, Professor Keller is of the belief the Deccan Traps, in modern day India, were the cause of the mass extinction – which sounds kind of cute compared to an asteroid with the force of a billion atom bombs until you get into the nitty-gritty of it.
Professor Keller compared the Deccan Traps eruptions to that which occurred at Iceland’s Laki volcano in the 18th century.
Starting on June 8, 1783, and continuing until early February 1784, the Laki eruption was one of the largest in recorded history, with Benjamin Franklin noting its effects over North America.
According to Encyclopaedia Britannica, “The vast quantities of sulfurous gases stunted crops and grasses and killed most of the domestic animals in Iceland; the resulting Haze Famine eventually killed about one-fifth of Iceland’s population.”
Yet that crazy outcome is not even a blip next to Deccan.
“But that’s just a short-term event from a relatively minor eruption, compared with Deccan,” Keller said, and that Deccan was “thousands of times larger”.
“And then you repeat that over and over again. For basically 350,000 years before the massive die-off,” she said.
She added, “Shit hits the fan for the last 40,000 years. The eruptions really took off. Huge. Absolutely huge. That’s when we have the longest lava flows on Earth, into the Bay of Bengal.”
For the record, that’s a flow of almost 1000 kilometres – roughly the distance from Sydney to Brisbane.
However, it’s not the lava that led to all the death and destruction, but the huge levels of sulphur spewing into the atmosphere, causing acid rain and eventually a huge heating of the entire planet.
“You just replace Deccan volcanism’s effect with today’s fossil-fuel burning,” Professor Keller said. “It’s exactly the same.”
Now, if you think that high school or social media are the only places where having a dissenting opinion can get you ostracised, then you’ve never been in a scrap with a scientist.
People have called Professor Keller a “bitch”, “the most dangerous woman in the world” and said she “should be stoned and burned at the stake”.
It’s led to the disagreement to be known as the ‘Dinosaur Wars’ and – almost 40 years after they began – they show no signs of abating.