“But my child…” said 7.6 billion

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A summary of a speech by Leilani Munter at the United Nations last night…:

Humans are the most dangerous animal on Earth. We represent just 0.01% of all living things and yet in our short time here we have already had a catastrophic effect on the natural world: we have destroyed 83% of all wild mammals and 50% of all plants.

Of all mammals on Earth, 60% are now livestock, 36% are humans, and just 4% are wild animals. Farmed poultry makes up 70% of all birds on the planet, with just 30% being wild. How sad is it that most of the birds on Earth are not able to fly. That’s what wings are for.

We are adding 1 billion people to our planet every 12 years and for every billion people comes 10 billion farm animals at our current rate of meat consumption. This is not sustainable.

Every single environmental crisis we face: climate change, ocean acidification, habitat loss, pollution, species extinction – all of them are accelerated by our rapidly growing population. We cannot address the others without addressing the core issue of the problem.

Charles Darwin once said “It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent that survives. It is the one that is most adaptable to change.”

Humans must show evolutionary adaptation by reducing population growth and meat consumption, as well as replacing the fossil fuel economy with a renewable energy economy. Otherwise we are up shit creek without a paddle.

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What killed the dinosaurs

[Well, isn’t this hopeful (for humans)]

https://www.cnn.com/2018/05/25/opinions/we-are-the-dinosaurs-of-today-opinion-brusatte/index.html

(CNN)The desert of northwestern New Mexico, in the vicinity of the Four Corners, is my special place. The high-altitude sun sparkles off the badlands, illuminating rocky pastels of red, green and brown that seem to extend indefinitely in all directions. No wonder that Georgia O’Keeffe — who painted here for decades — found this landscape as her muse.

Not many people live here, making it feel like a remote backwater within the world’s most industrialized country. But that’s the way I like it. I’m a paleontologist, and I visit here at least once a year, to hunt for fossils of dinosaurs and other long-extinct creatures. The fewer buildings, roads and houses to cover up the treasure we seek, the better.
Most of the candy-striped badlands in this part of New Mexico are carved from rocks laid down in rivers and lakes between about 84 and 56 million years ago. These were lush environments, teeming with life during a time when the Earth was much warmer and there were no ice caps on the poles. Bones, teeth, shells, and other parts of animals would often get buried in mud or sand and turn to stone, becoming the fossils that provide the only clues that these lost worlds ever existed.
You can find many dinosaurs here. We often come across the railroad spike teeth of T. rex and the gargantuan limb bones of long-necked sauropods of the Brontosaurus mold, some of which weighed more than a Boeing 737, easily making them the largest animals to ever thunder across the land.
The New Mexico desert where fossils can be found.

We find the skull domes that horse-sized omnivores called pachycephalosaurs used to head butt each other, and the jaws that horned and duck-billed dinosaurs sliced up plants with. So many species, big and small, living together.
I usually prospect these colorful hills with one of my best friends in science, Tom Williamson, a curator at the New Mexico Museum of Natural History and Science in Albuquerque. Sometimes, we walk for days and can’t get away from the dinosaur bones, because they are so common. By now we know the best places to find them: a layer-cake series of rock strata, formed during the very end of the Cretaceous Period (84-66 million years ago).
You can read the layers like the pages in a novel, and although the characters are fascinating, the story is fairly uneventful. During this whole stretch of time, dinosaurs were in control. History seemed to be standing still, and it appeared that dinosaurs would keep on ruling the world forever, as they had done for over 150 million years.
But then, suddenly, their bones disappear. We can pinpoint the exact place in the rock sequence. It’s where the cyclical mudstones and sandstones, records of that stable Cretaceous world, abruptly give way to coarser boulder-strewn rocks characteristic of fast-moving currents and corrosive storms. Something dramatic happened to the local environment, and the dinosaurs were gone.
A feathered dinosaur skeleton discovered in China.

The same pattern is seen halfway around the world, in the chalky-colored limestones of Gubbio, Italy. Underneath a medieval aqueduct that clings to the sides of a deep gorge, the geologist Walter Alvarez noted that the Cretaceous rocks at the bottom of the canyon are chock full of small fossils of ocean plankton.
Above these rocks, however, are nearly barren limestones, sprinkled with a few tiny, simple-looking fossils. The knife-edge separation between these two rocks is a dainty strip of clay, only about half an inch thick.
The clay is the cockpit voice recorder that reveals the fate of the plankton, and the dinosaurs: it is full of iridium, an element common in outer space but rare on Earth. It was delivered by a 6-mile-wide asteroid the size of Mount Everest, which was moving faster than a jetliner when it collided with the Earth 66 million years ago, punching a crater more than 100 miles wide and causing a chain reaction of volcanoes, wildfires, tsunamis, earthquakes and climate change that wiped out some 70% of all living things.
The dinosaurs couldn’t cope, and all of them (except for a few birds) died. They were soon replaced, and we see the evidence in New Mexico. The chaotic boulder-filled rock layer quickly gives way to the same types of mudstones and sandstones that had been formed during the Cretaceous, a sign that environments returned to normal within a few thousand years. But there are no dinosaur bones to be found in these newer Paleocene-aged rocks (66-56 million years old).
Instead, there are countless jaws, teeth, and skeletons of the things that took over from the dinosaurs, the species that went on to start the next great dynasty of Earth history: mammals.
It’s a sobering story, and one of relevance to us today, as our climate and environment are changing rapidly.
Just within the last few months studies have shown that sea level is rising twice as fast as we thought, the Antarctic ice sheets are melting at alarming rates, and temperature is increasing so fast that humans may make the Earth warmer than it has been in more than 50 million years.
There are consequences to all of this upheaval: we are in the age of the so-called “sixth extinction,” with species dying out at hundreds or thousands of times the usual rate. Faster, perhaps, than even during the five mass extinctions of Earth history, including the one that killed the dinosaurs.
Maybe dinosaurs can help save us. We’re used to thinking of them as movie monsters, skeletons that wow tourists at museums, and objects of childhood fascination. But they are so much more than that. They were real living, breathing, evolving animals that had to deal with rising and fall temperatures, fluctuating sea levels, volcanoes and asteroids.
After all, none of the environmental changes going on today is new. The Earth has been through them before, and dinosaurs and other extinct animals can tell the story of what happened. What died, what survived, how long it took to recover.
Among the mammals that Tom Williamson has discovered in those dinosaur-free, post-extinction rocks in New Mexico is a skeleton of a puppy-sized creature called Torrejonia.
It had a slender body, gangly limbs and long fingers and toes, and you can almost envision it leaping through the trees. It is one of the oldest primates — a fairly close cousin of ours, and a reminder that we humans had ancestors that were there on that terrible day, that saw the rock fall from the sky, that survived the cataclysm while the dinosaurs did not, probably because they were small, agile, adaptable and able to eat many types of food.
There is something almost poetic about it. In a sense, we are the dinosaurs. Before creatures like Torrejonia started the domino chain of evolution that led to humans, the dinosaurs ruled. They evolved superpowers like big brains, keen senses and the ability to grow to enormous sizes. There were probably many billions of them, living in all corners of the globe, that woke up on that day 66 million years ago confident of their undisputed place at the pinnacle of nature.
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We humans now wear the crown that once belonged to the dinosaurs. We are confident of our place at the pinnacle of creation, even as our actions are rapidly changing the planet around us. It leaves me uneasy, and a troubling thought lingers as I walk through the New Mexico scrublands, seeing the bones of dinosaurs give way so suddenly to fossils of Torrejonia and other mammals.
If it could happen to the dinosaurs, could it also happen to us?
Dinosaurs, of course, had no way to prevent the asteroid that killed them. But we have a choice — we can still stop, or at least slow down, pumping toxins into the atmosphere. Our choice will dictate whether we really are the dinosaurs: whether we go the way of T. rex and Triceratops, or whether we have learned from their sad story.

Humans just 0.01% of all life but have destroyed 83% of wild mammals – study

https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2018/may/21/human-race-just-001-of-all-life-but-has-destroyed-over-80-of-wild-mammals-study

Groundbreaking assessment of all life on Earth reveals humanity’s surprisingly tiny part in it as well as our disproportionate impact

Cattle farm at Estancia Bahia, Agua Boa, Mato Grosso, Brazil
 A cattle farm in Mato Grosso, Brazil. 60% of all mammals on Earth are livestock. Photograph: Daniel Beltra/Greenpeace

Humankind is revealed as simultaneously insignificant and utterly dominant in the grand scheme of life on Earth by a groundbreaking new assessment of all life on the planet.

The world’s 7.6 billion people represent just 0.01% of all living things, according to the study. Yet since the dawn of civilisation, humanity has caused the loss of 83% of all wild mammals and half of plants, while livestock kept by humans abounds.

The new work is the first comprehensive estimate of the weight of every class of living creature and overturns some long-held assumptions. Bacteria are indeed a major life form – 13% of everything – but plants overshadow everything, representing 82% of all living matter. All other creatures, from insects to fungi, to fish and animals, make up just 5% of the world’s biomass.

Another surprise is that the teeming life revealed in the oceans by the recent BBC television series Blue Planet II turns out to represent just 1% of all biomass. The vast majority of life is land-based and a large chunk – an eighth – is bacteria buried deep below the surface.

“I was shocked to find there wasn’t already a comprehensive, holistic estimate of all the different components of biomass,” said Prof Ron Milo, at the Weizmann Institute of Science in Israel, who led the work, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

“I would hope this gives people a perspective on the very dominant role that humanity now plays on Earth,” he said, adding that he now chooses to eat less meat due to the huge environmental impact of livestock.

https://interactive.guim.co.uk/uploader/embed/2018/05/all_life-zip/giv-3902Sgt2JYGV7lbj/

The transformation of the planet by human activity has led scientists to the brink of declaring a new geological era – the Anthropocene. One suggested marker for this change are the bones of the domestic chicken, now ubiquitous across the globe.

The new work reveals that farmed poultry today makes up 70% of all birds on the planet, with just 30% being wild. The picture is even more stark for mammals – 60% of all mammals on Earth are livestock, mostly cattle and pigs, 36% are human and just 4% are wild animals.

“It is pretty staggering,” said Milo. “In wildlife films, we see flocks of birds, of every kind, in vast amounts, and then when we did the analysis we found there are [far] more domesticated birds.”

https://interactive.guim.co.uk/uploader/embed/2018/05/livestock-zip/giv-3902QQbv2wCQM1xg/

The destruction of wild habitat for farming, logging and development has resulted in the start of what many scientists consider the sixth mass extinction of life to occur in the Earth’s four billion year history. About half the Earth’s animals are thought to have been lost in the last 50 years.

But comparison of the new estimates with those for the time before humans became farmers and the industrial revolution began reveal the full extent of the huge decline. Just one-sixth of wild mammals, from mice to elephants, remain, surprising even the scientists. In the oceans, three centuries of whaling has left just a fifth of marine mammals in the oceans.

https://interactive.guim.co.uk/uploader/embed/2018/05/wildlifelosses-zip/giv-39025SaTVRineiu5/

“It is definitely striking, our disproportionate place on Earth,” said Milo. “When I do a puzzle with my daughters, there is usually an elephant next to a giraffe next to a rhino. But if I was trying to give them a more realistic sense of the world, it would be a cow next to a cow next to a cow and then a chicken.”

Despite humanity’s supremacy, in weight terms Homo sapiens is puny. Viruses alone have a combined weight three times that of humans, as do worms. Fish are 12 times greater than people and fungi 200 times as large.

https://interactive.guim.co.uk/uploader/embed/2018/05/humanvother-zip/giv-3902p90ROfRxGU0x/

But our impact on the natural world remains immense, said Milo, particularly in what we choose to eat: “Our dietary choices have a vast effect on the habitats of animals, plants and other organisms.”

“I would hope people would take this [work] as part of their world view of how they consume,” he said. ”I have not become vegetarian, but I do take the environmental impact into my decision making, so it helps me think, do I want to choose beef or poultry or use tofu instead?”

The researchers calculated the biomass estimates using data from hundreds of studies, which often used modern techniques, such as satellite remote sensing that can scan great areas, and gene sequencing that can unravel the myriad organisms in the microscopic world.

They started by assessing the biomass of a class of organisms and then they determined which environments such life could live in across the world to create a global total. They used carbon as the key measure and found all life contains 550bn tonnes of the element. The researchers acknowledge that substantial uncertainties remain in particular estimates, especially for bacteria deep underground, but say the work presents a useful overview.

Paul Falkowski, at Rutgers University in the US and not part of the research team, said: “The study is, to my knowledge, the first comprehensive analysis of the biomass distribution of all organisms – including viruses – on Earth.”

“There are two major takeaways from this paper,” he said. “First, humans are extremely efficient in exploiting natural resources. Humans have culled, and in some cases eradicated, wild mammals for food or pleasure in virtually all continents. Second, the biomass of terrestrial plants overwhelmingly dominates on a global scale – and most of that biomass is in the form of wood.”

Fossilized footprints tell a story of how our ancestors hunted giant sloths

giant sloth hunting

There’s plenty that archaeologists and paleontologists can learn from the bones and other artifacts left behind by ancient creatures and mankind’s own ancestors. Researchers can figure out what they looked like, where they lived, and who ate who, but painting a detailed picture of more advanced behavior is much more challenging. How ancient humans hunted, for example, is a huge topic of interest for many scientists, but evidence to support any theories is pretty rare.

A newly-discovered collection of fossilized footprints is giving researchers a rare glimpse into the past and helping them tell the story of how our ancestors once brought down a now-extinct creature that would have towered over them: the giant sloth.

The footprints, where were discovered at the White Sands National Monument, part of which is a US military testing ground. Today, the dry, barren location is a great place to test missiles without the risk of casualties, but 10,000 years ago it was the site of an epic battle between ancient humans and a massive ground sloth.

Giant sloths went extinct thousands of years ago, but at one time they were the target of human hunters. The reason for the species’ extinction is still debated, but some scientist blame overhunting as the cause. What these new footprints tell us for sure is that our ancestors seemed to have a pretty good idea of how to take them down, with circling footprints of multiple hunters surrounding one such sloth distracting it while others presumably attacked it with spears or other crude weapons.

“Geologically, the sloth and human trackways were made contemporaneously, and the sloth trackways show evidence of evasion and defensive behavior when associated with human tracks,” the researchers write in the study, published in Science Advances. “Behavioral inferences from these trackways indicate prey selection and suggest that humans were harassing, stalking, and/or hunting the now-extinct giant ground sloth in the terminal Pleistocene.”

Whether violent confrontations such as this were ultimately the cause of the giant sloth becoming extinct will likely never be conclusively proven, but the evidence that humans hunted these so-called “megafauna” on a large scale is mounting. Maybe that’s why modern animals are so darn small?

Burning coal may have caused Earth’s worst mass extinction

https://www.theguardian.com/environment/climate-consensus-97-per-cent/2018/mar/12/burning-coal-may-have-caused-earths-worst-mass-extinction?CMP=share_btn_fb&page=with%3Aimg-2#img-2

New geological research from Utah suggests the end-Permian extinction was mainly caused by burning coal, ignited by magma

Fossil of a Galesaurus, a cynodont that lived during the Permian period.
 Fossil of a Galesaurus, a cynodont that lived during the Permian period. Photograph: Iziko Museum of Natural History

Earth has so far gone through five mass extinction events – scientists are worried we’re on course to trigger a sixth – and the deadliest one happened 252 million years ago at the end of the Permian geologic period. In this event, coined “the Great Dying,” over 90% of marine species and 70% of terrestrial vertebrate species went extinct. It took about 10 million years for life on Earth to recover from this catastrophic event.

Scientists have proposed a number of possible culprits responsible for this mass extinction, including an asteroid impact, mercury poisoning, a collapse of the ozone layer, and acid rain. Heavy volcanic activity in Siberia was suspected to play a key role in the end-Permian event.

Recently, geologist Dr Benjamin Burger identified a rock layer in Utah that he believed might have formed during the Permian and subsequent Triassic period that could shed light on the cause of the Great Dying.

Sheep Creek Valley, Utah
Pinterest
 Sheep Creek Valley, Utah. Photograph: Benjamin Burger

During the Permian, Earth’s continents were still combined as one Pangea, and modern day Utah was on the supercontinent’s west coast. Samples from the end-Permian have been collected from rock layers in Asia, near the volcanic eruptions, but Utah was on the other side of Pangaea. Burger’s samples could thus provide a unique perspective of what was happening on the other side of the world from the eruptions. Burger collected and analyzed samples from the rock layer, and documented the whole process in a fascinating video:

Pinterest
Dr Burger’s ‘Rocks of Utah’ episode documenting his investigation of the Permian-Triassic Boundary geologic samples.

Earth turned into a toxic hellscape

Burger’s samples painted a grim picture of Earth’s environment at the end of the Permian period. A sharp drop in calcium carbonate levels indicated that the oceans had become acidic. A similar decline in organic content matched up with the immense loss of life in the oceans during this period. The presence of pyrite pointed to an anoxic ocean (without oxygen), meaning the oceans were effectively one massive dead zone.

Bacteria ate the oversupply of dead bodies, producing hydrogen sulfide gas, creating a toxic atmosphere. The hydrogen sulfide oxidized in the atmosphere to form sulfur dioxide, creating acid rain, which killed much of the plant life on Earth. Elevated barium levels in the samples had likely been carried up from the ocean depths by a massive release of methane.

The culprit: burning coal

Levels of various metals in the rock samples were critical in identifying the culprit of this mass extinction event. As in end-Permian samples collected from other locations around the world, Burger didn’t find the kinds of rare metals that are associated with asteroid impacts. There simply isn’t evidence that an asteroid struck at the right time to cause the Great Dying.

However, Burger did find high levels of mercury and lead in his samples, coinciding with the end of the Permian period. Mercury has also been identified in end-Permian samples from other sites. Lead and mercury aren’t associated with volcanic ash, but they are a byproduct of burning coal. Burger also identified a shift from heavier carbon-13 to lighter carbon-12; the latter results from burning fossil fuels.

The Permian was the end of the Carboniferous period, which means “coal-bearing.” Many large coal deposits were created in the Carboniferous, including in Asia. Previous research has shown that the Permian mass extinction event didn’t coincide with the start of the Siberian volcanic eruptions and lava flows, but rather 300,000 years later. That’s when the lava began to inject as sheets of magma underground, where Burger’s data suggests it ignited coal deposits.

The coal ignition triggered the series of events that led to Earth’s worst mass extinction. Its sulfur emissions created the acid rain that killed forests. Its carbon emissions acidified the oceans and warmed the planet, killing most marine life. The dead bodies fed bacteria that produced toxic hydrogen sulfide gas, which in turn killed off more species. The warming of the oceans produced a large methane release, which accelerated global warming faster yet. As Burger put it,

Things went from bad to worse, and you can now begin to understand how life nearly died out. Global warming, acid oceans, anoxia, not to mention a toxic atmosphere. We are lucky to be alive at all!

Eerie similarities to today

Scientists are observing many of the same signs of dangerously rapid climate change today. There’s more lighter carbon-12 in the atmosphere because the increase in atmospheric carbon levels is due entirely to humans burning fossil fuels. There are an increasing number of dead zones in the oceans. Burning coal was causing acid rain, although we largely solved that problem through Clean Air Acts, and in the US, a sulfur dioxide cap and trade system implemented by a Republican administration.

We’ve had less success in tackling carbon dioxide pollution, which continues to rise. As a result, the oceans are becoming increasingly acidic, and temperatures increasingly hot. Scientists today also worry about potentially large releases of methane from the ocean floor and Arctic.

These are some of the similarities between the climate change that nearly wiped out life on Earth 252 million years ago and the climate change today. Both appear to have largely been caused by burning coal. A 2011 study found that over the past 500 years, species are now going extinct at least as fast as they did during the five previous mass extinction events.

It’s enough to make you think; maybe coal isn’t so beautiful and clean after all.

Backed Into a Corner

cornered-deer.jpg

 

Commentary by Jim Robertson

 

Despite humans’ best efforts to destroy her, it seems Nature is not going down without a fight. And regardless of what humans may believe about themselves and their place at the pinnacle, Nature is ultimately much bigger, heavier and vastly more significant in the so-called ‘scheme of things.’

 

Harassed by their bird-dog, a sow grizzly bears charges pheasant hunters (who, of course, shoot and kill her–leaving three cubs motherless); a ‘serial-killer’ elephant tramples 15 Indians (out of over a billion); and just yesterday a new article tells us a about a ‘hunter gored to death by a cornered deer.’

 

Could it all be part of a long-suffering and normally highly (even saintly) tolerant Mother Nature finally fighting back against her one fatal blunder–the fleshy, hairless, upright, arrogant apes armed with their weapons of mass extinction?

 

Homo sapiens may have won countless battles and the arms race hands-down, but Nature will ultimately win the day and eventually, the war, wiping the slate clean for another burst of evolutionary creativity that won’t include the conceited carnivorous primates or their puffed-up fantasies of self-importance.

 

 

Things could really start to get ugly

It came to me while reading the nonfiction book What Evolution Is by the famed evolutionary biologist, Ernst Mahr, that the only way Mother Nature is ever going to get rid of the species plaguing her perfection is with a good old-fashioned mass extinction, because, sadly, humans aren’t going anywhere without taking just about every other species with them.

Humankind have backed Nature into a corner and at this point all she can do is turn and fight, like sow grizzly bear defending her beloved offspring

Humans have gotten away with killing and eating, killing for sport and/or taking trophies of any and all of Natures’ finest treasures for so long now we’re starting to think we’re entitled to simply help ourselves to the spoils of our war on the world.

Well; if humans don’t shape up and show some respect, things could really start get ugly on this planet soon for everyone involved… and that’s not just talking weather-wise.  

  

“We are a plague on Earth:” David Attenborough: ‘If We Don’t Limit Our Population Growth, the Natural World Will’

IN BRIEF
  • The famed British naturalist warns that our current rate of population growth is unsustainable and will ultimately have devastating consequences for the human race.
  • He recommends several ways to combat this problem, emphasizing a need to give women political control of their bodies and investing in sex education worldwide.

“A PLAGUE ON EARTH”

David Attenborough, renowned British naturalist and TV presenter, has some pretty scathing words for humanity: “We are a plague on Earth.”

Attenborough made that statement to the Radio Times back 2013, but it’s far from the only time he’s shared his controversial views on population growth. Attenborough has made it clear that he believes that at the rate humans are growing we will soon be unable to feed or house ourselves. It’s an uncomfortable truth, but one that needs to be faced, especially for anyone who agrees with Attenborough that humans have become a plague on this planet — a relentless force of destruction tearing its way through a world shared with other creatures.

“It’s coming home to roost over the next 50 years or so. It’s not just climate change; it’s sheer space, places to grow food for this enormous horde,” he said in that same interview. “Either we limit our population growth, or the natural world will do it for us, and the natural world is doing it for us right now.”

The rapid growth of our population is making it very difficult for the world to address several serious environmental challenges. What’s needed is a real discussion about the reality of overpopulation. Too many people, combined with insufficient methods of creating and distributing resources, ultimately leads to loss of life and resources.

“We can’t go on increasing at the rate human beings are increasing forever, because Earth is finite and you can’t put infinity into something that is finite,” Attenborough said in a story published by The Independent.

TOO LITTLE, TOO LATE?

Despite all his efforts to bring awareness to the subject of overpopulation, Attenborough sternly warns that simply acknowledging these eventualities is not enough — we must act. He believes that controlling our population is dependent on investing in sex education globally, giving women more political control over their bodies, and implementing other voluntary means of population control in developing countries.

“The only straw of comfort or of hope, and even that is pretty fragile, is that wherever women are given political control of their bodies, where they have the vote, education, appropriate medical facilities and they can read and have rights and so on, the birth rate falls, there’s no exceptions to that,” Attenborough says.

Putting more emphasis on women’s reproductive rights and empowerment, as well as providing universal access to birth control and education, will ultimately give people an opportunity to make informed family planning choices. Our only hope of living on this planet for a long time into the future is making sure we start planning for it now.

Dinosaurs might have escaped total extinction had doomsday asteroid struck seconds earlier, later

http://www.torontosun.com/2017/05/15/dinosaurs-might-have-escaped-total-extinction-had-doomsday-asteroid-struck-seconds-earlier-later MONDAY, MAY 15, 2017 12:19 PM EDT | UPDATED: MONDAY, MAY 15, 2017 12:53 PM EDT

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A new BBC Two documentary suggests dinosaurs might have escaped extinction if a doomsday asteroid had struck 30 seconds earlier or later.

Instead, it’s believed the massive, 15 km-wide rock smashed into shallow water near the Yucatan Peninsula 66 million years ago, ejecting mass amounts of sulfur into Earth’s atmosphere.

“This is where we get to the great irony of the story,” Ben Garrod, who presents The Day The Dinosaurs Died, told the BBC.

“In the end it wasn’t the size of the asteroid, the scale of blast, or even its global reach that made dinosaurs extinct. It was where the impact happened.”

Researchers contend the ensuing blast caused an extended global winter that left dinosaurs with nothing to sustain themselves.

 

However, had the giant asteroid struck moments earlier or later it might have splashed into deeper waters in the Atlantic or Pacific Oceans.

Such an open water impact could have resulted in less vaporized particles being ejected into the air, thereby allowing more sunlight to reach Earth’s surface.

Scientists believe the impact that formed Mexico’s Chicxulub Crater resulted in an explosion equal to 10 billion Hiroshima A-bombs, according to the report.

The documentary also speculates that the original impact caused immediate death for dinosaurs roaming as far away as New Jersey.

Mass Die-Off of Whales in Atlantic Is Being Investigated

Photo

Workers inspecting a dead humpback whale that washed up on Rockaway Beach in Queens this month.CreditSpencer Platt/Getty Images

Humpback whales have been dying in extraordinary numbers along the Eastern Seaboard since the beginning of last year. Marine biologists have a term for it — an “unusual mortality event” — but they have no firm idea why it is happening.

Forty-one whales have died in the past 15 months along the Atlantic coast from North Carolina to Maine. In a news conference on Thursday, officials from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Fisheries said that they had not identified the underlying reason for the mass death, but that 10 of the whales are known to have been killed by collisions with ships.

The agency is starting a broad inquiry into the deaths.

These whales “have evidence of blunt force trauma, or large propeller cuts,” said Deborah Fauquier, a veterinary medical officer at the agency’s Office of Protected Resources. These collisions with ships were “acute events,” Dr. Fauquier said, and were being treated as the “proximate cause of death.”

Dr. Fauquier said that the number of whale strandings was “alarming,” and that she hoped the investigation might give a sense of what kind of threat this presents to this population of humpback whales and those around the world.

COn average, eight humpback whales are stranded each year from Maine to Virginia, and fewer than two are hit by ships, according to data from NOAA.

An unusual mortality event is a specific designation under the Marine Mammal Protection Act, and is defined as “a stranding that is unexpected, involves a significant die-off of any marine mammal population, and demands immediate response.”

Whale or other marine mammal die-offs are often poorly understood by scientists, and this case is no exception. Officials from NOAA Fisheries could not explain why the animals were coming into greater contact with vessels, or if there were any human-caused or climate-related disturbances that had changed their behavior.

Gregory Silber, marine resources manager in the agency’s Office of Protected Resources, said that there had not been any increase in ship traffic in the region, and that the whales might be following their prey — they mostly eat krill and small fish — to areas where there could be more shipping.

Ten whales other than those killed by ships have been examined, but officials have not yet determined the cause of death. There is no indication that they were killed by disease.

Humpback whales — which can be as long as 60 feet, weigh as much as 40 tons and can live for 50 years — are found in all of the world’s oceans. There are 14 distinct population segments — groups that follow certain migration and breeding patterns — of humpback whales, some of which are classified as endangered or threatened. The population along the Atlantic coast, which winters in the Caribbean and summers in the North Atlantic or Arctic regions, is not now considered threatened under the Endangered Species Act.

Around the world, there are an estimated 30,000 to 40,000 humpback whales, about a third of its original population. The Atlantic population is around 10,000.

Scientists have suggested that some whale deaths could be a result of marine noise, often a result of military activity, offshore drilling or exploration, which can disorient the animals and send them in the wrong direction, possibly toward beaches where they get stuck instead of into the deeper ocean. Mr. Silber, the NOAA manager, said he was not aware of a connection between ocean noise and these strandings.

A recent study has shown that dolphins, when escaping predators or the source of marine noise, might shoot up from a dive more quickly than they otherwise would, switching from slow, deliberate strokes to faster, longer ones, which can cause them to use double the energy they normally do, and exhaust them.

The last major mass casualty event for marine mammals in this part of the world took place from 2013 to 2015, when a resurgence of the morbillivirus killed thousands of bottlenose dolphins on the Eastern Seaboard.

Among humpback whales, there was an unusual mortality event in 2006, following others in 2005, which involved other large whales, and 2003, which was primarily humpback whales. In each investigation, the cause was undetermined, officials said.

NOAA officials said members of the public looking to help could report stranded or dead floating whales to numbers listed on their website.