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Did a Chicxulub impact wipe out dinosaurs?

Wikimedia CommonsAsteroid-falling-to-Earth
Did a huge impact from space really kill off the dinosaurs?

If not, what did?

Published: 10 April 2021 (GMT+10)

Mr R.R. from Wisconsin asks about a topic that has baffled both creationists and evolutionists for about 200 years: the extinction of the dinosaurs. The common evolutionary view of a meteorite impact was once considered outlandish, but now it’s considered outlandish to doubt it.

The biblical creationist view must involve the global Flood of Noah’s day. Because dinosaurs were land vertebrates, two of every kind must have been passengers. So why are they extinct now?

Dr Jonathan Sarfati and Joel Tay answer below.

I saw some old articles regarding meteor impacts. It seems like there have been new developments by the secular scientific community though. The Chicxulub crater is now touted as the source for dinosaur extinction and that the event potentially only had to last for a few decades. There’s also mention of a layer of asteroid dust that exists around the entire world. I’m wondering if you have an explanation for the Chicxulub crater and also for the layer of asteroid dust that some scientists claim exists around the globe.

Dear Mr R.

Thank you for writing to CMI.

The extinction of dinosaurs has been a mystery for both the creationists and evolutionists ever since they were (re-)discovered in the 19th century. There are over 100 theories for why the dinosaurs went extinct. Some of these include theories such as the idea that dinosaurs died out due to carbon dioxide accumulation from volcanic eruptions, global warming/cooling, epidemics, or from predation by egg-eating mammals. More novel ideas include extinction from newly evolved narcotic plants, chronic constipation, and shrinking brains. The fact that there are so many different theories suggests to us that secular researchers do not really have a good solution to the question.

This Chicxulub impact idea is all the rage now, but even evolutionists point out problems. The impactor was either a stony asteroid or a comet, diameter 10.6–80.9 km, mass 1.0×1015 kg to 4.6×1017 kg, and energy 1.3×1024 J to 5.8×1025 J.1 To put this into perspective, the most powerful nuclear weapon ever exploded, the Soviet RDS-220 hydrogen bomb or ‘Tsar Bomba‘, produced 2.10×1017 J. So, even the lowest estimate of the Chicxulub explosion means the equivalent of over 6 million Tsar Bombas.

In the theory, the impactor threw 60 times its mass in pulverised rock into the stratosphere. The resulting dust blocked out the sun causing a global cooling effect that wiped out 50% of all life, including the dinosaurs.

The support for the idea stems from thin iridium layers that exhibit characteristics consistent with a huge meteoroid strike. These thin layers are generally thought to be found in rock layers all around the world at the K-Pg (formerly K-T) boundary—the supposed time of dinosaur extinction according to evolutionists.

However, this iridium layer is not as well-defined as previously once thought. There are currently over 100 known K-Pg iridium anomalies. There is much circular reasoning about the K-Pg boundary. That is, dinosaurs died out at the K-Pg boundary. How is this defined? Simple: any rock layer with dinosaur remains or tracks proves that it’s below the boundary.2

We don’t rule out meteorites at the time of the Flood, because they are consistent with the biblical Flood model, which speaks of the windows of the heavens being opened (Genesis 7:11, 8:2). So, it would not be surprising to find traces of such an impact in the Flood layers.

All secular theories for the extinction of dinosaurs face numerous problems, including the Chicxulub theory. For example, if an asteroid hit the earth leading to a nuclear winter, how did the photosynthesis-dependent plants survive? Why did delicate bees and butterflies, or even sensitive amphibians such as frogs and salamanders survive? If volcanic activity and toxic gases filled the earth after an extinction event (such as with the volcanic or carbon dioxide theory of extinction), then why did the birds survive?

Bible-consistent extinction theories

Some creationists have sometimes pointed to the fact that since dinosaurs lived at the same time as man after the Flood, hunting could have contributed to its extinction. Many animals around the world have gone extinct due to hunting.

Similarly, several ancient legends speak of heroes slaying dragons. These ‘dragons’ may have been dinosaurs. There is much archaeological evidence that suggests that people a few millennials ago were familiar with dinosaur-like creatures, so possibly these creatures were hunted to extinction. Could hunting have killed off all the dinosaurs? Hunting might have played a part in the extinction of big and dangerous dinosaurs, but it is hard to see how hunting would have killed off the smaller dinosaurs deep in the unexplored jungles.

Most biblical creationists believe that there was a single ice age event that started a few hundred years after the Flood and peaked around 500 years. The cold weather might have made it difficult for post-Flood dinosaurs to survive in the polar regions, but the ice age does not explain why dinosaurs went extinct at the equatorial regions. Nor would it explain why the dinosaurs went extinct, but not many other reptiles like the crocodilians or large snakes. But this is also a problem for the evolutionists who appeal to global cooling or a nuclear winter following the supposed asteroid impact.

The extinction of dinosaurs may be the result of a combination of different factors: climate, human hunting, inability to adapt to the post-Flood world, the loss of suitable food, lack of genetic diversity, habitat, etc. The same is true of other extinct creatures.

References and notes

  1. Durand-Manterola, H.J. and Cordero-Tercero, G., Assessments of the energy, mass and size of the Chicxulub Impactor, arXiv:1403.6391v1, 19 Mar 2014. Return to text.
  2. Oard, M., End-Mesozoic extinction of dinosaurs partly based on circular reasoning, J. Creation 15(2):6–7, 2001; creation.com/dino-extinction. Return to text.

Helpful Resources

Exploring Dinosaurs with Mr Hibb
by Michael Oard, Tara Wolfe, Chris Turbuck, Gary Bates
US $17.00
Hard Cover
Guide to Dinosaurs
by Brian Thomas and Tim Clarey
US $17.00
Hard Cover
Dire Dragons
by Vance Nelson
US $32.00
Hard Cover
Little Dinosaurs on a Big Ark
by Lita Cosner & Joshua Warren
US $12.00
Hard Cover

Readers’ comments

Jonatan B.
Is the argument that dinosaurs is carved in Angkor Wat, argument that we could or should not use?
AiG used this. but there are refutation I read in quora (i can not shared link) but it is the question.

If Dinosaurs have already been extinct 65 million years ago, why there’s still Stegosaurus dinosaurus image carved with other animals at Angkor Wat, Cambodia from 800 years ago?

Also same question about that regarded as dinosaurs figures that founded in Acambaro, Mexico?
Jonathan Sarfati
We think that the Angkor Wat drawings are genuinely of a Stegosaurid kind of dinosaur drawn 800 years ago. So this means that either the artists saw one, or were going by reports from people who had seen one. See Did Angkor really see a dinosaur?

But I question whether the Acambaro or Ica dinosaur figurines date from hundreds or thousands of years ago. See Ica stones, Acambaro figurines, and good arguments.
Ryan C.
The thing that you forgot to mention about the K–T boundary is that it there have been found no dinosaur fossils above it only below it, neither has there been found any human or any of today’s living mammals fossilised remains, below the K–T boundary.
Then what about the megafauna like the numerous different versions of the Elephant family most now extinct, that reached as far as central America, the woolly rhino, giant sloth sabre tooth cat, the giant lemur but to name a few how is it that they all died out and yet their fossils were also, only found above the K–T boundary and not below it, why is that, when they all supposedly died at the same time after the flood?
By the way I’m not saying this cause I'm not a Christian I am, but its just that these are the theories that the evolutionist are presenting as facts on the TV and I don't want to come unstuck, when I come across some one who is ingrained in secular science.
Jonathan Sarfati
The K–T boundary is now called the K–Pg boundary because the Tertiary is no longer a standard name, and it was divided into Paleogene and Neogene. We did discuss the K–Pg boundary and pointed out that it is circularly defined.

The other creatures you mention lived during the post-Flood Ice Age, and were fossilized by Ice Age catastrophes, such as gigantic dust storms. Evolutionists have problems not only with the dinosaur extinction but also with the extinction of the Ice Age megafauna—see Over-kill, over-chill, or over-ill?
Howard C.
There certainly are some very good theories mentioned on this subject, and I will give you mine also. The Bible might be correct and science might also be correct. Like all of these other theorists, I cannot prove anything, just provoke discussion.

I believe that the scriptures leave room for there to be an ancient Earth underneath the waters that were mentioned at the beginning of Genesis. The scriptures do not say that the Earth was created. It does say the waters were rolled back, and the dry ground appeared. I believe that meant the Earth was already here, just covered with water. That makes a lot of sense, because it would be difficult to get the sediment needed to cover so much stuff that we have discovered, in the 150 days that the Earth was supposed to be covered by Noah's flood. I do not doubt that the dinosaurs existed on an Earth that was much different then the one we now have, and was destroyed by our all powerful God, for whatever reason. A God who can just speak things into existence, can also rotate the Earth's crust to make carbon dating start all over again, while it was uninhabited. The Bible was written for the ones alive today, and had no responsibility to explain what happened before.

As I said, this is only a theory on my part, and has no more validity then those written above.
Jonathan Sarfati
“The scriptures do not say that the Earth was created.” Genesis 1:1 would beg to differ.

“The Bible was written for the ones alive today, and had no responsibility to explain what happened before.” But it tells us that Adam was there "from the beginning of creation" not billions of years after the big bang.
Edwin R.
Have you considered the possibility that dinosaurs were not a part of the original kinds (baramin) of creation and thus were not preserved on the ark? They are ugly and strange aberrations compared with the beautiful animals we know were preserved on the ark as part of the original baramin. They could have been genetic mutations that developed during the more than 1500 years between creation and the flood. All dinosaur finds are located buried in the layers laid down at the time of the flood. With no evidence for dinosaurs preserved later than the flood, one needs to question whether they survived the flood. The mythical dragons for dinosaus theory doesn't hold much water. Very debatable and speculative.
Jonathan Sarfati
I have considered this and totally rejected it on biblical and scientific grounds. Who says they are ugly and strange aberrations? They are extremely well designed unique creatures. What would they have mutated from? E.g. what mutations would cause the column-like legs under the body, the composite armour of ankylosaurs, and much more? And even if they were mutants (arguendo), they would have been mutated from the original created kinds God made on Day 6.
Steve H.
All dinosaurs not on the ark would have drowned. The only ones that survived to re-colonise the post-Flood world were those on the ark. We know that the ark and flood represent a huge genetic bottleneck for all types of animal. Maybe God further restricted their genetic diversity by calling only certain dinosaurs to the ark. The ark represents God’s grace towards a sinful world. Maybe there was further grace employed in not calling those animals which would not have survived the immediate post-flood environment.

Many ask why he chose to save dinosaurs at all (believing them to be dangerous creatures, even on the ark). Given that God gave vegetation as food in his initial creation (Genesis 1:29–30), and allowed carnivory only post-flood (Genesis 9:3, hence Genesis9:2)—probably to survive the early vegetation-less period—maybe the dinosaurs, big cats etc, only became dangerous to man at that time as both mankind and animal became predators. Protecting themselves from such animals may initially have been defensive or for food, becoming a later hunting-to-extinction of what had become a dangerous menace.

Maybe Dino-burgers became a staple food for humans in the early post flood period!
Jonathan Sarfati
In the second-last line, we mention that “lack of genetic diversity” was a possible factor in dinosaur extinction.

The second paragraph above is not correct. God gave humans permission to eat meat only after the Flood, but some creatures became carnivorous some time between the Fall and the Flood. See for example When did animals become carnivorous?
Mark C.
I can understand individual animals going extinct. But when it comes to dinosaurs as a group, or type of animal, or a kind (whatever category includes all of them), why would they go extinct? Whatever caused their extinction, why would it be all of them instead of say, 75% of them? Or 80 or 90% of them? Why aren’t there a few dinosaur species still around? Why would 100% of the dinosaurs go extinct, but not 100% of the horse kind or the cat kind, as opposed to individual species within those kinds? I hope my question makes sense.
Jonathan Sarfati
Why indeed? Evolutionists don’t know either!
Richard H.
It was my understanding that the longevity under the canopy was not the result of higher oxygen content, but rather the canopy’s ability to filter out harmful radiation that was deleterious to life span. Post flood, diminishing lifespan until a new equilibrium lifespan was established.
Jonathan Sarfati
The canopy couldn’t do that either. Water vapour is not very good at stopping UV, but is a strong greenhouse gas. So we would have been cooked under a canopy that could have produced a metre or two of rain. That’s why no major creationist organization accepts it now, not even ICR. See Flood models and biblical realism. For the correct reasons for dropping lifespans, see Why don’t we live as long as Methuselah?
Justin S.
Do we know that the plant eating dinosaurs like Stegosaurus etc. were reptiles? Or were they about the same as today’s rhinoceros or elephants, hippos etc. It seems to me that some of today’s creatures are every bit as odd as so called dinosaurs if you were to stumble upon them side by side in times past—but I’m sure there’s some valid reason to believe they should be categorized as something super different? If not I’d say there are some super strange dead reptile species known as dinosaurs and many species that are still around today that if extinct and only found in fossils alongside dinosaurs would be classified as such with them and also be given the complete denial of possibility of existence today?
Jonathan Sarfati
Dinosaurs were definitely not mammals. Whatever they were, it is still right to say that every named dinosaur kind is now extinct.
Richard H.
I believe that I read that pre-flood oxygen levels may have been significantly higher than current levels, maybe as high as the low to mid 30%'s and that dinosaur lung capacities may have required that higher oxygen content. While the canopy theory has fallen out of favor with some creationist, it does make sense that the oxygen level post canopy and post flood would be lower than any surviving dinosaurs could tolerate long term, let alone survive an ice age.
Jonathan Sarfati
We think that the evidence for a pre-Flood higher oxygen level is equivocal, as is the question of whether it would have been beneficial. See for example:
John R.
Is it true that some reptiles keep on growing bigger for the whole of their lives (I think I heard it from John Mackay)? If so, is there evidence that the dinosaurs of the past are not ancestors of today's lizards, the size being a reflection of the respective ante- and postdiluvian life spans?
Jonathan Sarfati
No, sorry, the idea that dinosaurs kept growing is outdated, although when Mr Mackay said it, it was likely the consensus view of science. See discussion on dinosaur growth curves in How did dinosaurs grow so big?

Also, dinosaurs are very different from lizards (and crocs), because dinos have column-like legs that are vertically under the body, while living reptiles have legs sprawled to the side.
Alan P.
Re meteorite and asteroid impacts, with the fountains of the deep breaking open a lot of what we now see as impact craters on earth here would be pretty likely be from the crust of the earth that would have been blasted up wards and then fallen back to earth looking at Lake Taupo for instance where it is estimated that around 1,100 cubic kilometres of matter was ejected it would have to land somewhere and would have created chaos in itself. Having found charred remains of trees down 2.0mtrs deep when working in that region.
Egil W.
Very good response!

As there are many people who find it incredulous that dinsaurs could have lived contemporanous with Man, it’s all based on assuming the evolution and long age-story as fact, and then concluding from that, it’s not possible.

But animal kinds do go extinct, and there are many living fossils (Tuatara, Goblin Shark, Horseshoe crab, etc etc), that cannot be denied to both be represented in the fossil record while being alive today.

The seamens’ tales of giant octopuses turned out to be generally true—the giant octopus and the colossal octopus live now in the Antarctic region. [Giant and colossal squid? Ed.]

Extinction of animal kinds are battled by major organizations like WWF, so animals going extinct in our time is fact-period.

The dragon-depictions of medieval people, people of antiquity and ancient times, are extremely close in look to dinosaur anatomy, and fossils don’t come with assembly-charts.

So why would different peoples and cultures living separately in time and place, depict creatures with the same general anatomy as we find in dinosaur fossils?

It’s also nice to see that ‘the opening of the windows of heaven’ are given the possibility of atmospheric change (in the very unique Flood-year). My own view is that this refers to more than just heavy rains.

As I try to read up on both what the OT and NT says about the Flood in Noah’s day, it seems—for lack of better words—like the «apocalypse» of that age.

Thanks for another good response!
Miguel F.
It’s good that you let go of this idea that there are some dinosaurs living in someones backyard somewhere in Africa but you still dont realise that dragons are mythical not real do you also believe that fairies exist in some remote corner if some eyewitness came forward?
Eyewitness accounts are extremely unreliable; that’s why I am skeptical of the Resurrection and Virgin Mary apparitions.
Rejecting evolution its very dangerous because the person will start to believe in anything like flat earth, astrology, crystal power etc. That’s why Christianity and pseudoscience and pseudohistory (biblical archaeology) go hand in hand.
Believing old wives’ tales from people who live in the jungle and believe that spirits control the weather won’t get you nothing but undermine your own creationist beliefs.
Dinosaurs are extinct for millions of years and it was a meteor that caused their demise so stop fighting a lost cause against mainstream science and publish peer reviewed articles in journals like nature to prove your case.
Jonathan Sarfati
So many fact-free assertions above. ↑↑ We are actually skeptical of conspiracy theories, which is a good reason to believe the Resurrection of Jesus. Eyewitness testimony is often reliable when the witnesses are competent and honest, and when the different accounts inadvertently support each other. We leave flat-earthism to your lot, because a major flat-earth leader was an evolutionist, while hardly any Christians ever taught flat-earthism in the entire history of the Church.
Jeremiah G.
Great article as always. Do you know of any examples of “dinosaurs” or dinosaur-like creatures that stil might be living today?
God Bless,
Harold G.
Could changes in gravity be the answer? If Earth rotated faster in years past, gravity at the equator would be less allowing larger animals to grow. If dinosaurs attempted to live today, they could not grow past juveniles since even young dinosaurs surpass the weight of elephants (the largest known animal today.)
Jonathan Sarfati
Earth rotating fast doesn’t change gravity, but counteracts it to a small degree. But this doesn't seem necessary or likely. Dinosaurs were well designed to cope with current gravity.
Dan M.
I Have watched Dr Tim Clarey’s video and read his articles about the flood and how the six megasequences may indicate pre-flood land elevation and progressive inundation during Noah’s flood. If I understand it correctly, much more of the pre-flood world would have been lowland or swampland as compared to about six percent of swampland today which is much less than the pre-flood world. If this were the preferred habitat of most dinos as it is to alligators today, then much of the dinosaur habitat was destroyed in the flood and that alone would reduce their numbers. Then you have legendary dragon-slaying, climate change, and changing food source as you have stated, and it is easy for me to see why they went extinct. Alligators (dinosaur kissing cousins) at one time here in Florida were endangered by overhunting also. To be sure we will have to wait to meet our historian and Lord, Jesus Christ to know for sure. Until that day we can rest assured that our bible is accurate giving us the true version of historical events. Some day every soul will know the truth. Some to their delight, and some to their demise, unfortunately, (Philippians 2:10).
Ian H.
With the proliferation of historical artwork accurately depicting Dinosaur/Dragons and the wealth ohistorical reports of people’s interactions with them it would be a leap of Faith, following the Evidence to think that dinosaurs lived with people in recent history. If so then the factor that stands out in history that would have decimated them was the Invention of Accurate Rifled Firearms in the 1600s. In Vance Nelson’s amazing bookUntold Secrets of Planet Earth: Dire Dragons, there is much evidence to support this idea as very little artwork exists after this time to my knowledge. Not meteors but man’s inventive mind destroyed these creatures. Vance Nelson’s book does an amazing job of refuting the Evolutionary ‘Story’ and placing a stone in peoples shoes.
Jonathan Sarfati
I think you are right that human hunting had something to do with dino extinction. But I am not aware of any dinosaur being shot with a rifle, though.
Andrew H.
There are people who report dinosaurs alive today (e.g.The Girl who saw a Flying Dinosaur by Jonathan Whitcomb. needs an index.a pterosaur if true) . I know that CMI as an organisation would not endorse these reporters and their reports for sufficient reasons. Nonetheless the list of living fossils grows and the geological age ranges of fossils shows a similar trend.
The history of life is so malleable, within evolutionary presuppositions, that falsification is not possible. It is ironic that those who complain that any appeal to intelligent design is anti-science embrace ideas that are themselves non-scientific and are practically anti-scientific (e.g. 'Junk' DNA).

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