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3.6: The K/T Extinction Reading Assignment

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  • Next, we'll read a set of scientific articles together with some summaries intended for a general audience. These all deal with the K/T extinction event. The three scientific articles I have selected are intended to walk you through the most recent debate over exactly what killed the dinosaurs and how the timing worked.

    My suggestion is to read through the press releases and summaries first because they are intended for a more general audience. Then read/skim the scientific papers, which have been written for experts. Note the different writing styles and differing amounts of technical jargon in the different papers! I have posted some discussion questions you might want to look at first help guide your thinking, so you are ready to discuss.

    We will discuss these papers together via a discussion in Canvas. This discussion will take place over the second week of this lesson.

    Reading + Discussion Assignment


    1. Read the following press releases and summaries, which are available in Canvas. You will see that there is a set of questions, below, to guide your thinking as you read.
      • "Why we can’t get over the death of the dinosaurs" (2019). Nature, 568, 143.
      • Burgess, S. (2019). Deciphering mass extinction triggers. Science, 363, 815-816.
      • Preston, D. (2019). "The Day the Dinosaurs Died". The New Yorker.
    2. Read the following papers, which are available linked from Canvas:
      • DePalma, R.A., J. Smit, D. A. Burnham, K. Kuiper, P. L. Manning, A. Oleinik, P. Larson, F. J. Maurrasse, J. Vellekoop, M. A. Richards, L. Gurche, and W. Alvarez (2019). A seismically induced onshore surge deposit at the KPg boundary, North Dakota. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 116, 8190-8199.
      • Schoene, B., M. P. Eddy, K. M. Samperton, C. B. Keller, G. Keller, T. Adatte, S. F. R. Khadri. (2019). U-Pb constraints on pulsed eruption of the Deccan Traps across the end-Cretaceous mass extinction. Science 363, 862–866.
      • Sprain, C. J., P. R. Renne, L. Vanderkluysen, K. Pande, S. Self, T. Mittal.(2019). The eruptive tempo of Deccan volcanism in relation to the Cretaceous-Paleogene boundary. Science 363, 866–870.
    3. As you read, keep in mind these questions:
      • What is the evidence supporting an extraterrestrial impact at the K-T boundary? Is there evidence against it? What are the other hypotheses?
      • How does argon-argon dating work? How does U-Pb dating work? What are the advantages and disadvantages of each method?
      • How can you summarize the controversy? What do you think is the next step in resolving the debate between these groups?
    4. Enter the L3 K/T Boundary Reading Discussion in CANVAS. You will see the questions above already there. I've organized this discussion as separate threads, each dealing with one question at a time to see where that leads us. Please participate by answering my question, responding to a classmate, asking another relevant question or furthering the discussion in another meaningful way

    Grading rubric: Please see the rubric for discussions.