Dr. Lawrence Whitmer of Ohio University discusses the topic “Nova: The Dinosaur Apocalypse” and Today’s Contemporary Mass Extinction

Dr. Lawrence Whitmer of Ohio University discusses the topic “Nova: The Dinosaur Apocalypse” and Today’s Contemporary Mass Extinction

Written by: Emily Fotau

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About 66 million years ago, a massive asteroid hit the Earth, destroying the dinosaurs. Although we have plenty of evidence that such an asteroid collided with Earth, we haven’t been able to discover any fossils of dinosaurs that were killed in this event – until now.

Wednesday, May 11 at 9 p.m. ET, WOUB-TV will broadcast “Nova: The Dinosaur Apocalypse,” a two-part documentary hosted by Sir David Attenborough to examine new fossil evidence recently discovered at a site in North Dakota that may She sheds new light on what exactly happened on the day a fateful asteroid hit Earth.

The mysterious extinction of dinosaurs has long intrigued Dr. Lawrence Whitmer, professor of anatomy at The Ohio University Heritage School of Osteopathic Medicine and an internationally recognized paleontologist.

“The thing that constantly excites me about dinosaurs is trying to deconstruct how they function, and looking not only at dinosaur bones, but also at the biology of their modern-day relatives, since dinosaur fossils can’t really speak for themselves,” said Whitmer, whose lab recently received a large grant to fund more From research into the intelligence, cognitive abilities, and sensory capabilities of dinosaurs.

Whitmer said it took a long time to determine that it was a massive asteroid that wiped out the enormous and ferocious creatures that we still find fossilized to this day. Over the past 30 years, he said, we’ve improved this knowledge — we’ve detected an asteroid collision with the modern-day Yucatan Peninsula in Mexico.

“If you could imagine an asteroid bigger than Mount Everest hitting Earth — that would be a pretty big splash,” he said.

Whitmer said that while there was evidence of massive fires immediately after the asteroid impact, more destruction was caused by the debris from the asteroid impact. This dust eventually blocked out the sun for a while, making it impossible for plants to properly photosynthesise – leading to the collapse of entire ecosystems and a dramatic cooling period often compared to the concept of nuclear winter.

While we know all this, Witmer said “NOVA: Dinosaur Apocalypse” is particularly exciting because of the new information that contributes to our understanding of this extinction event.

“Over the last two or three decades, we’ve developed very accurate knowledge about what happened 66 million years ago when this asteroid impacted – we really know where it hit, we know some of the effects after that, but what we’ve never expected to find is the subject of this program. TV Show Hosted by David Attenborough – We never expected to find proof of day The dinosaurs died. Whitmer, who said “Nova: Dinosaur Apocalypse” is examining in detail the findings that were initially published around 2019:

If the extinction event that led to the end of the dinosaurs sounds horrific, that’s because it was. However, Whitmer explained that without it, it is possible that human life as we know it would not exist.

“So one of the things about mass extinctions is that they are horrific disasters for the animals on Earth at the time, but to some extent they provide a reset for life to evolve. They kind of change the leaves and new things can emerge as a result,” Whitmer said. , our ancestors, have been around for most of the age of the dinosaurs — but they were just little things, kind of hanging around and didn’t take any big toehold.” That, until the extinction of the non-avian dinosaurs 66 million years ago. To some extent, this reset button, the reshuffling of cards at the end of the age of the dinosaurs is one of the things that allow humanity to evolve.”

Why is it important to study and understand the extinction of the dinosaurs? As it turns out, Whitmer explained, we are now in the midst of another mass extinction event.

“And the kicking is, we’re a darn asteroid! Human activity is leading to this potential mass extinction that we are in the midst of right now. We are experiencing massive changes in our planet due to the industrialization of our societies. It is global. We are not alone as Americans — it has been happening for some time,” Whitmer said. But we’re only just beginning to see the effects of our activism.”

While we’re on the fast track to causing our own mass extinction – Witmer said one thing we can be sure of is that Earth will survive, whether or not there are humans alive.

“One of the many things we learn from studying these mass extinctions is that while massive damage can be done to the Earth, we can’t really destroy it. The Earth has endured some big shocks, but one of the things that have resulted from that shock is innovation – new things appear, new animals, And new ways to solve different life problems,” he said. “One of the joys of being a paleontologist is being able to explore this vision of deep time, to explore how out of all these different tragedies life emerges like a phoenix out of the ashes. I find it offensive, what we’re doing to the planet – and I think we’re basically the equivalent of an asteroid the size of Mount Everest – That must be very upsetting to people. The difference between us and an asteroid is that we likely have the power to change that fate — to see the faults of our ways, and respond.”

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