Portal:Earth sciences/Selected article/23
The Cretaceous–Paleogene (K–Pg) extinction event, formerly known as the Cretaceous–Tertiary (K–T) extinction, was a mass extinction of some three-quarters of plant and animal species on Earth—including all non-avian dinosaurs—that occurred over a geologically short period of time 66 million years (Ma) ago. It marked the end of the Cretaceous period and with it, the entire Mesozoic Era, opening the Cenozoic Era which continues today.
In the geologic record, the K–Pg event is marked by a thin layer of sediment called the K–Pg boundary, which can be found throughout the world in marine and terrestrial rocks. The boundary clay shows high levels of the metal iridium, which is rare in the Earth's crust but abundant in asteroids.
It is generally believed that the K–Pg extinction was triggered by a massive comet/asteroid impact and its catastrophic effects on the global environment, including a lingering impact winter that made it impossible for plants and plankton to carry out photosynthesis. The impact hypothesis was bolstered by the discovery of the 180-kilometre-wide (112 mi) Chicxulub crater in the Gulf of Mexico in the late 1970s, which provided conclusive evidence that the K–Pg boundary clay represented debris from an asteroid impact. The fact that the extinctions occurred at the same time as the impact provides strong situational evidence that the K–Pg extinction was caused by the asteroid. However, some scientists maintain the extinction was caused or exacerbated by other factors, such as volcanic eruptions, climate change, and/or sea level change.