What lives and what dies?

Francis Gooding

  • The Rise and Fall of the Dinosaurs: The Untold Story of a Lost World by Steve Brusatte
    Macmillan, 404 pp, £20.00, May 2018, ISBN 978 1 5098 3006 0

‘It was a bad time to be alive,’ Steve Brusatte tells us. A comet or asteroid about six miles across had just collided with the Earth, in the area we know as the Yucatán Peninsula in Mexico. The speed of its arrival compressed the atmosphere ahead of it with such force that air temperatures became hotter than the surface of the sun; the energy released on impact was equivalent to a billion atomic bombs. It smashed through 25 miles of the Earth’s crust, plunging down into the mantle below, leaving a crater a hundred miles wide. Identified in 1991, it has been named the Chicxulub Crater, after the nearest town.

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