Skip to comments.Scientists say comet killed off mammoths, saber-toothed tigers
Posted on 01/02/2009 7:44:26 AM PST by Red Badger
First an explosion as powerful as thousands of megatons of TNT rained meteorites down on North America. Then forest fires broke out across the continent, sending up a thick layer of soot and dust that blocked out the sun. A sudden ice age ensued, and some of the Earth's largest animals went extinct in a blink of geological time.
It's well known that a meteorite colliding with Earth is considered the most likely reason dinosaurs died off 65 million years ago. Now a team of scientists says it has found new evidence that a comet triggered a similar extinction much more recently: just 13,000 years ago, when humans were around to witness the event and suffer its terrible consequences.
The researchers also think that when the comet exploded above the planet's surface - ultimately killing off mammoths, saber-toothed tigers and other large mammals that roamed North America - Chicago wasn't too far from ground zero.
"If you'd been in Chicago back in that time, it would've been one very bad day," said Allen West, an Arizona geophysicist and one of the authors of a paper appearing Friday in the journal Science.
The scientists, led by University of Oregon anthropologist Douglas Kennett, say their report offers up a "smoking bullet" - proof it was a comet that set off the sudden, thousand-year freeze and wiped out the big animals of the era.
Working at multiple sites across the continent, researchers found nanodiamonds - microscopic particles thought to be found on comets - in a 13,000-year-old layer of rich sedimentary soil called a "black mat." Beneath the layer with the nanodiamonds, fossils of the animals are abundant. After that layer, they disappear, West said.
"It's extraordinary that tens of millions of animals disappeared synchronously at exactly the time when the diamonds and carbon layer are laid down across the continent," said West, whose co-authors include DePaul University chemist Wendy Wolbach.
Arrowheads and other artifacts from the Clovis culture of humans - an early hunter-gatherer society - also vanish after the black mat was laid down 13,000 years ago.
In 2007, West and a team of scientists published an analysis of black mats from several regions that found heavy metals, soot and charcoal suggestive of meteorite impacts and subsequent fires. The new report says the discovery of nanodiamonds in the same material is more evidence of a cosmic strike.
Archeologists have long speculated about whether climate change or over-hunting drove the mammoths, tigers and other "megafauna" to extinction and led to the decline of the Clovis culture.
Many remain skeptical of the comet theory and think there may be better explanations for what happened, said Daniel Amick, an associate professor of anthropology at Loyola University who studies the Clovis culture.
"When most archeologists heard about it they were somewhat dismissive," Amick said. "We would think, 'How in the world could we have missed this? How could this spectacular kind of event have occurred and never even dawned on us?'"
The authors have much to prove before their theory is accepted, Amick said, like pinpointing the date of the event and ruling out other potential causes of extinction and climate change.
In response to one common criticism of the comet theory - that no craters have been found from an impact - West said the comet may not have actually reached Earth, but exploded into fragments somewhere above the surface.
Where exactly that might have happened is a mystery, but high concentrations of nanodiamonds at a site in Eastern Michigan suggest the Great Lakes as a possibility.
"We think that Chicago might well have been very near ground zero," West said.
The idea that a comet may have caused catastrophic climate change and extinction relatively recently in Earth's long history suggests scientists shouldn't dismiss the possibility of it happening again, Wolbach said.
"Should we be doing more to try to deflect future asteroids, or is that too sci-fi?" she said. "If this is true and there was an impact 12.9 thousand years ago, obviously this is not something that's just a theoretical idea, it's a real thing."
Wow this is out of a primo science fiction movie and guaranteed to garner gobs of good grant money
I was never fond of the theory that man hunted the mammoth to extinction.
That would be the Ledbetters of Route Four, Liberty, Mississippi.
This stuff is such hogwash, honestly, science is nothing but fairy tales these days, in search of either grants to futher their worthless careers or to carry the mantle of thier twisted ideology.
I take it you aren’t a big fan of science?
The world continues to find every reason under the sun EXCEPT for the Flood in Noah’s days to explain why the animals all died off.
Comet hits planet: mammoths and saber-tooth tigers hit hardest
Well, comets are different - they don't necessarily have one solid center mass and can't easily be pushed aside.
The next Comet will impact above Wrigley field just as the Little Bears are about to clinch the NL pennant.
I blame Bush.
Scientists proving once more, they don’t know sh*t.
SNorting it will kill you...........
SNorting it will kill you...........damn! 3 posts in a row!......
I saw numerous shows on Science channel/ Discovery etc. where they went over this... and the reason they said there was no crater as a smoking gun was because it hit the ice age canadian shield which had miles thick ice on it.....
I guess the point Mitchum was trying to make was: Mammoth. It's what's for dinner.
There are several things that we might want to absorb. First...”Comet Warming” destroyed a huge portion of life in North America...and basically formed the Mississippi River and probably over two hundred other rivers. Second...the vast amount of man in North America died, so Man version 2.0...basically came over AFTER 12,900. So we might have had several vast societies in existence. Third and final....we aren’t just talking about just a dozen or two dozen species of life that disappeared here....but we could be talking about a thousand different types of species that disappeared (so that the environmental guys don’t readily blame us for everything).
That's because there's zero evidence to support a worldwide flood at any point in the last 3 billion years. Also, my Bible reading may be off, but I only recall one Flood. The Holocene extinction, which saw the end of the saber tooth cat and the woolly mammoth, was fully 65 million years after the extinction of the dinosaurs. How many floods were there?
Perhaps you should stop getting your science from the new media?
Three in 30 seconds. What can I say? Great minds think alike.
Ah, of course. Marcel, Raynelle, Eudelle, W.L., Lynelle, Nuegene, Claude and Clovis. Oh, and Aunt Pet and Uncle Versie, too. Surprisingly enough, Clovis has gone and got hisself a Facebook page. HAWWW!
Which, when it melted when the comet hit would have caused a sudden rise in sea level.....
You mean like the story on this thread?
Then how come there were mammoths, sabertooths and humans in Los Angeles some 9,000 years ago?
Please explain how The Flood could account for the layer of nano-diamonds and soot extending throughout N. America, coinciding with the demise of large mammals.
Plus it's amazing how Alligators are always near ground zero for these Asteroid/Comet hits, yet they always manage to survive unscathed.
They go on long vacations:
This IS the flood of Noah. Read Velikovsky seminal trilogy: Worlds In Collision, Earth in Upheaval and Ages in Chaos. Then: Ignatius Donneley- Ragnarok, and Vine Deloria- Red Earth, White Lies. This event is recorded in the myths of ancient people the world over. www.kronia.com.
It's Bush's fault. Bush and those damned SUVs.
Women and minorities hardest hit.
Yeah, a big fireball and a flaming hole in the ground the size of Texas would tend to do that.....
I for one am getting a bit tired of “scientists say”. Lets face it, Al Gore says we have global warming and is backed up by “scientists” and I am still shoveling Gore’s global warming in the form of the heaviest snowfall for many years.
Old honest Al is making a monetary killing on the ignorant citizens of the world.
I was raised not far from there.....8^)