Health Supreme by Sepp Hasslberger

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December 13, 2007

What Really Killed the Dinosaurs?

Was the disappearance of the dinosaurs from the face of planet earth due to a single huge catastrophic event, such as the impact of a large asteroid or a series of volcanic eruptions that darkened the skies for an extended period of time, or was it a much more gradual process?


Scene from the movie Dinosaur

Beldeu Singh argues that a gradual change of the level of oxygen in the atmosphere, rather than the direct effects of a catastrophe was to blame. Perhaps it could be both: A catastrophic event or series of catastrophes could have brought about what we would now call a "nuclear winter", killing off much of the flourishing life of the time. The catastrophe would not likely have, by itself, caused the changes we know happened at the time, including the extinction of the dinosaurs and the development of a myriad of other forms of life. A catastrophic event may well have set the stage however for a steep decline in the levels of oxygen in the earth's atmosphere, which in turn resulted in evolutionary changes that favored smaller reptiles and mammals over the large-bodied dinos that had thrived in the previously very oxygen-rich atmosphere.

Today, oxygen makes up about 21 per cent of the atmospheric gases. But historically, that level seems to have fluctuated a lot. Much higher and much lower levels are thought to have occurred in geological times linked to the development of our current biodiversity of life on the planet:

According to recently developed geochemical models, oxygen levels are believed to have climbed to a maximum of 35 percent and then dropped to a low of 15 percent during a 120-million-year period that ended in a mass extinction at the end of the Permian. Such a jump in oxygen would have had dramatic biological consequences by enhancing diffusion-dependent processes such as respiration, allowing insects such as dragonflies, centipedes, scorpions and spiders to grow to very large sizes. Fossil records indicate, for example, that one species of dragonfly had a wing span of 2 1/2 feet. From: Evolution of the Atmosphere

While oxygen is essential to human life, the flip side of the coin is of course the oxygen radical, formed during metabolic processes, which has destructive and disruptive properties. We counteract these naturally occurring "terrorist" molecules by the use of anti-oxidants, vitamins, minerals and similar biological substances formed in plants that defuse and largely prevent the destructive effects of oxygen radicals. Much of our health revolves around a balance between supplying enough oxygen to tissues for normal function and blocking the destructive effects of too much oxygen by the use of anti-oxidant mechanisms.

Beldeu Singh has written several articles on the importance of anti-oxidants for the prevention and cure of cancer and the lowered immunity we call Aids. This link is to an article on Aids - scrolling down to the end, you will find a whole list of other articles.

And here is Beldeu's view on how oxygen likely was involved in the extinction of the dinosaurs...

- - -

Beldeu Singh

What Really Killed the Dinosaurs will always interest any researching mind. It is like the JFK assassination – a story that won’t go away. Not at least until it can be put to rest with a final convincing answer. And that answer is hard to find. We have only some evidence to go by and theories to be built on it.

A popular theory is that a meteoroid hit earth that was so big that its impact hurled tons of earth into the sky and blocked the sunlight long enough to severely limit photosynthesis. The plants and the dinosaurs died as a result. So, if this is true, then there must be evidence of mass extinctions worldwide of both plants and dinosaurs. And it must be supported by gelogical evidence of this dust in geological layers in different parts of the world having very similar composition.

A new proposition called “double-trouble” attempts to coin a solution by stating that both an impact from an asteroid coming from space and monumental volcanic eruptions in India injected vast clouds of dust and other emissions that dramatically altered climate on a global basis which triggered the mass extinctions.

“The Age of Dinosaurs ended roughly 65 million years ago with the K-T or Cretaceous-Tertiary extinction event, which killed off all dinosaurs save those that became birds, as well as roughly half of all species on the planet, including pterosaurs. The prime suspect in this ancient murder mystery is an asteroid or comet impact, which left a vast crater at Chicxulub on the coast of Mexico.

Another leading culprit is a series of colossal volcanic eruptions that occurred between 63 million to 67 million years ago. These created the gigantic Deccan Traps lava beds in India, whose original extent may have covered as much as 580,000 square miles (1.5 million square kilometers), or more than twice the area of Texas.

Both an impact from space and volcanic eruptions would have injected vast clouds of dust and other emissions into the sky, dramatically altering global climate and triggering die-offs. Keller's collaborator, volcanologist Vincent Courtillot at the Institute of Geophysics in Paris, noted upcoming work from collaborators suggests the Deccan eruptions could have "quickly released 10 times more climate-altering emissions than the nearly simultaneous Chicxulub impact" (cf: Charles Q. Choi, Special to LiveScience, Mon Nov 12, 2007).

The above report states that “arguments over which disaster killed the dinosaurs often revolve around when each happened and whether extinctions followed. Previous work had only narrowed the timing of the Deccan eruptions to within 300,000 to 500,000 years of the extinction event.” Well obviously a gap of 300,000 to 500,000 years is a long time and to prove that both events contributed to the extinction of dinosaurs, it must be shown with some evidence indicating that the first clouds of dust lasted for such a long time when the second event of collosal volcanic eruptions injected monumental amounts of dust to form clouds in the sky or the other way around. Again, it must be shown that there is a thin layer of such dust that settled as a geological layer in various parts of the world or at least that dust from these collosal volcanic eruptions settled in gelological layers in different parts of the world.

It is conceivable that volcanic dust or dust from an asteroid impact may be suspended in the air and even to form a layer in the atmospheric strata for weeks to a few months but not for 300,000 to 500,000 years simply because such dust begins to form nuclei within water vapor clouds and triggers rain and thus descends to earth.

The point in impact theories and volcanism is that sunlight was blocked out long enough to kill dinosaurs around the globe but fails to properly address the issue of why it did not also wipe out the smaller-bodied animals such as birds which are in fact small-bodied dinosaurs at around 65 million years ago and small bodied mammals began to appear. This simple piece of data should drive research by asking the question. “What was the factor that killed the large bodied dinosaurs and selected in favour of the small bodied animals and opened up a natural-selection factor for the evolution of mammals?” That seems to be the key question in this research instead of the simple and linear thinking of of “what killed the dinosaurs”.

Next it must be borne in mind that since dinosaurs first began to appear they were indeed relatively small when the atmospheric oxygen content was probably around 11% and as the oxygen content rose some species began to die out and were replaced by larger and larger dinosaurs until the oxygen content peaked at around 40% and then as the oxygen content began to decline, the larger bodied dinosaurs faced extinctions until 65 million years ago when the small bodied dinosaurs appeared in the form of birds that have a very large heart relative to body size (see: Rise and Fall of the Dinosaurs – The Oxygen Theory) indicating a change in metabolism and physiology related to oxygen delivery to tissues. It is not a case of all dinosaurs since the “age of dinosaurs” having died out at one go or in a single event.

An extremely interesting piece of data in this report states that "before the mass extinction, most of the foraminifera species were comparatively large, very flamboyant, very specialized, very ornate, with many chambers," Keller explained. These foraminifera were roughly 200 to 350 microns large, or a fifth to a third of a millimeter long” whereas "the foraminifera that followed were extremely tiny, one-twentieth the size of the species before, with absolutely no ornamentation, just a few chambers (ref: Oct. 31 at the annual meeting of the Geological Society of America in Denver).

It is pertinent to note that this data is of critical importance because it indicates that:

1. The foraminifera species (shell-forming marine organisms) underwent a change in size from comparatively and significantly large before the mass extinction to tiny after the mass extinction of the large bodied dinosaurs.
2. These organisms also underwent a special change from “very specialized and very ornate” to “absolutely no specialization” indicating a special factor relating to metabolism and physiology which links to the availability of the oxygen molecule for metabolic activity in cells and a scaling down of its physiology as a whole leading to a loss of specialization and ornamental intricacies.

In both cases, there was a change in size but with one big difference. The large bodied dinosaurs could not adapt with the rather rapid decline in oxygen and died out as small bodied birds emerged and evolved to live off the diminished food supply from relatively smaller plants but the very small marine organisms could adapt by change in size and other changes that could be supported by lower metabolism. That would be expected as any rapid decline in oxygen in the atmosphere would be better tolerated by very small and marine organisms but would adversely impact large-bodied animals and reptilian physiology that depended on breathing air.

The change in oxygen content began to favor the emergence and selection of warm blooded animals and comparatively smaller reptiles in contrast to the huge dinosaurs. The key factor may have been the availablity of the oxygen molecule for metaboilsm rather than any disaster event.

What is apparent is that after the mass extinction of the large-bodied dinosaurs due to the rapid decline of oxygen in the atmosphere, the lower oxygen levels could only support the tiny foraminifera species that were only 1/20th the size following the mass extinction of the large-bodied dinosaurs.

It appears that since life first appeared on earth about a billion years ago, its evolution has been directed by many factors including biochemistry that requires sunlight in electron transfer as in photosynthesis which saw a major change to another form of L-form molecules called antioxidants being involved in electron transfer bio-reactions to sustain life without photosynthesis but in which system, the antioxidant molecules produced by photosynthesis (from plant cells) could be incorporated into animal cell biochemistry. In both biological systems, the availability of oxygen is of critical importance.

There is one special point to note in the role of the availibity of oxygen in evolution. When the oxygen content increases over time, say from 11% to 22%, there is too much oxygen in metabolic reactions that leads to excess oxygen free radicals and the small-bodied animal cannot consume enough antioxidants to scavenge it. That environment favors larger-bodied dinosaurs with larger hearts that beat more slowly, in the region of 20-22 beats per minute. The heart of an elephant beats at around 28 beats per minute. On the other hand, as oxygen content declines significantly, say from 40% to 24%, the slow beating heart cannot deliver enough oxygen to all parts of the huge animals and the cell function suffers from low oxygen. Birds are more suited to oxygen levels below 24% and their bio-engineering shows the adaptation of a relatively large heart to body-size ratio that beats around 300-1000 beats per minute during flight depending on the size of the bird. A bird's heart rate can increase rapidly when it takes off for flight and the heart rates of small birds can easily rise above 1000 beats per minute during flight. Their alimentary system is different and can digest the same amount of food at about four times faster than mammals to provide the additional energy and nutrients.

Bird lungs are smaller than those of mammals. They are part of the most efficient respiratory machinery known in vertebrates and even with this efficient respiratory system, birds breathe rapidly during flight - up to 450 breaths per minute for a pigeon. A bird's heart is much like the four chambered mammalian heart whereas reptiles have a three chambered heart but a bird's heart weighs up to twice as much as that of a mammal of equal size because flying requires more energy and more oxygen. Natural selection favoured the bio-engineering of a bigger, faster beating heart to supply plenty of oxygen derived from faster breathing and nutrients derived from a faster digestive system.

Smaller birds and mammals lead fast-paced lifestyles and generally have faster heart rates than large ones. The heart of a hummingbird has about 600 beats per minute at rest. The heart of pigeon has 200 beats per minute at rest while the heart of an ostrich has 65 beats per minute at rest. Domestic chicken heart beats are around 240 per minute.The human heart beats at 70-72 beats per minute at rest. Elephants have a much lower heart beat at around 28 beats per minute. If dinosaur hearts beat hard and fast like those of birds, it would damage the lung and brain tissue and result in death.

Bird blood is similar to mammalian blood in that it contains both red cells (erythrocytes) and white blood cells called leucocytes. The red blood cells are iron-based proteins as in the mammalian system and do the work of transporting oxygen around the system and taking the waste carbon dioxide away from the muscles and organs. However, unlike ours, a bird's red blood cells are nucleated, meaning they have a nucleus, where our red corpuscles have no nucleus. So, the four chambered heart and blood quite similar to mammalian blood had already appeared before the mass extinction of the large-bodied dinosaurs but more evolutionary niches opened up due to the declining oxygen levels that meant lower photosynthetic output that would yield lower amounts of natural antioxidants for the same volume of leaves and fruits which said antioxidants are required in the metabolic activity of cells.

Natural selection favoured the warm blooded mammalian physiology that could make do with lower oxygen levels in the atmosphere, a lower metabolic rate and a slower beating heart, smaller reproductive cells and a relatively longer gestation, all of which could be supported by the lower photosynthetic output.

In summary, it seems that evolutionary changes were related to the oxygen molecule levels in the atmosphere and to oxygen's role in metabolic activity which gives life but at the same time also yields the oxygen free radical that is toxic to life. That is what may have shaped the biodiversity we see today and ended the dominance of the large-bodied dinosaurs rather than any disaster events or any single disaster event in one part of the world.


posted by Sepp Hasslberger on Thursday December 13 2007
updated on Friday October 15 2010

URL of this article:


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Readers' Comments

If chickens evolved from dinosaurs, and common songbirds carry avian flu which is deadly to chickens, then perhaps it was nothing more exotic than bird flu which wiped out the dinosaurs. (Perhaps one day we will call avian flu dinosaur flu).

Posted by: Outtanames999 on July 13, 2010 12:52 AM


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