Sunday, March 8, 2015

Dinosaur:: Love, passion and Dinosaur extinction - Ritesh Arya and Munish Arya

Love, passion and Dinosaur extinction

Ritesh Arya and Munish Arya
168,  Arath Bazar, Kasauli, Himachal Pradesh, India.  173204

The present paper is based on observations made by the author during hydrogeological investigations done at Tiger Male, an observation post in Changthang area about 200 miles from Leh..  It is located in the high altitude, cold mountain deserts of Ladakh Himalayas. The aim of this project was to provide sustainable drinking water to the troops stationed on the Indo-Tibetan (China) Border by developing groundwater resources from a borehole, drilled with the help of suitable rig mounted on a truck.  
However, unusual observations made by the author regarding the geology of the region and the abnormal behaviour of the animal (lizards) during the drilling/welding operations caught on a video, made him think otherwise. In the present paper the author has tried to correlate these annotations to propose a new theory for the selective extinction of Dinosaurs on one hand and on the other hand have tried to explain the taphonomic processes involved in their preservation in those uncertain geological conditions prevalent during the K/T times. 

This theory is based on observations made by the author during a trip to Tiger Male in Ladakh Himalayas during the summers of 2004. Tiger Male located on the banks of River Indus, is an observation post of the Indo-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP) on the Indo Tibetan (now Chinese) Border. The region represents the picturesque location amidst the dry mountain ranges in the Changthang region (“Chang”means north and “thang” means plains) about 200 miles from Leh,. The only source of drinking water in summers is the water in Indus River but in winters as the temperatures sink to -450C water in the river freezes, snow/ice has to be melted in order to obtain drinking water. The water supply system, thus, is not sustainable. The present project was conceptualised by the author in coordination with the engineers of Indo-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP), to provide sustainable drinking water to the troops stationed there by exploring and developing the groundwater resources.
The region falls in the high altitude, cold and mountainous deserts with an average altitude of more than 3000 meters above the mean sea level. It experiences extreme temperatures (varies from +250C in summers to -450C in winters) and climatic conditions (hot and dry in summers whereas winters are cold and freezing). The meandering Indus River in the vicinity geologically represents, Indus Tsangpo Suture Zone which signifies the tectonic collision (about 65-70 million years ago) and suturing (about 50-53 million years ago) between the Indian plate and the Eurasian plate.  In the present time it presents a natural boundary separating India from Tibet (now China). The geomorphological reconstruction of the area clearly shows a huge U shaped glaciated valley formed by the Indus glacier during the ice ages.
Tiger Male, a place where no remains of the Dinosaurs have been reported, is being used to propose a new theory to explain the selective extinction of the Dinosaurs. This region is significant as geologically (as explained below) it signifies the era during which the Mother Earth witnessed many upheavals ranging from earthquakes, volcanic activities, resulting due to the tectonic collision and suturing of Indian plate with the Eurasian plate followed by subduction of the former under the later, intrusion of granites, changing the entire face of the earth in those times. This even can be Biologically related with the extinction (Dinosaurs, ammonites etc.) and evolution of certain species (mammals and angiosperms) on one hand  and geographically giving it a new look in the form of rising Himalayas in the north and Deccan Traps in the south on the other hand.
Many theories and hypothesis have been put forth on this account in the past, most of them either incomplete or vague while the others gave self contradictory explanations to selective extinction and the taphonomic processes involved in their preservation in totality. In recent times theories related with Asteroid Impact in Mexico and Deccan volcanism in India about 65 million years at the K/T boundary had found favours with the scientific fraternity all over the world, but not without questions. Based on the geological (related with granite intrusions) and biological (related with abnormal behaviour of the lizards) observations made during the drilling project at Tiger Male, the author tries to correlate these two phenomenons and propose a new theory to explain the selective extinction besides understanding the various taphonomic processes involved in their preservation inspite of the geologically uncertain environment prevalent during those times.

The Hydrogeological conditions
The region at Tiger Male lies in the 7th Hydrostratigraphic zone proposed by Arya (1996). Inspite of the fact that river Indus flows in the vicinity, peaks of the area are covered with snow/ice throughout the year and the area itself represents a paleoglaciated valley, finding of groundwater at first glance seemed impossible as granites seemed to be the dominant lithology. However, after detailed investigations done by the author presence of grey well bedded sedimentary sequence represented by the limestone bands on the foothills of the granite hill were found which could be the potential source for the movement and accumulation of the groundwater resources leading to its development by drilling borewell.  Based on the hydrogeological data collected from other localities in Ladakh and after establishing the Hydrostratigraphic correlation it was strongly felt that the probable site for the exploitation of groundwater resources in the region was the contact between limestone and granites which had intruded them. The site for drilling the borewell to exploit groundwater resources was therefore explored and identified a few meters away from the limestone granite contact in the limestone rich beds. After carefully examining the site by hydrogeological investigation, the drilling work was started.
The outcrop sections at Tiger Male are marked by massive granite hills which intruded into the sedimentary sequence of the lime stone beds, these limestone beds represented the deepest part of the Tethys Sea in the past. The paleoenvironmental reconstruction of the area as interpreted from the outcrops exposed on these barren, lofty and colourful mountain ranges clearly shows a mega geological event in the past. The volcanic activity occurred in form of granite intrusions in the the ocean floor. This granite intruded the sedimentary sequence comprising of sandstone/siltstone/shale/clay and limestone beds of Tethys and dissected the sandstone/siltstone/shale/clay sequence from the limestone beds deposited in the ocean floor over the years. Today these batholiths emerge as massive gigantic granite hills in the area. This activity probably resulted due to the weak zones and crakes created in the ocean bed by the bending/subduction of Indian Plate below the Eurasian Plate after the initial collision around 65 -70 million years ago. This intrusion phenomenon is also observed in Zanskar-Leh-Khardungla-Nubra Valley and almost all along the Suture Zone.
The magma intruded in the form of granites all along the Indus Tsangpo Suture Zone. The extent of these batholiths can be traced to thousands of miles all along the suture zone in the subcontinent. Accurate dating of these granites has been a problem mainly due to the inaccessibility of the area and the restrictions imposed by the ministry of defence because of its closeness with the Indo-China and Pakistan border. Dates of these massive granite intrusions have ranged from more then 120 million years to few million years. However, systematic dating of these granites could play significant role in calculating the timings of these granite intrusions on one hand and the various activities associated with it on the other. Though the age of these granites is not certain, but it can be said with certainty that these intrusions were not a result of a single eruptional activity but represent episodes of intrusion.  This event can be witnessed in the form of criss-crossing of primary and secondary intrusions in the outcrop sections in Leh and are very predominant in the Chumathang-Puga belt in Changthang (4 hours drive from Leh).
Similar activities have been reported from Hindu Kush Himalayas in Asia-Pacific region, Alps in Europe and Sierra Nevada in Western America making granite intrusion a global phenomenon.  
The enormity of this event can be considered a cause for the global mass extinction. Besides graveyards of Dinosaurs fossils being unearthed on peninsular part, huge collection of ammonite fossils have been recovered from the various sites exposed in Lahaul Spiti in Himalayas. Their selective extinction is still a matter of debate and discussion. But one point which needs attention to explain this but has been ignored in the past by the scientists is that, different animals behave and react differently to the sudden changes in the environment. 
Thus, in all probability timing of one of these massive episodic granite intrusions could have coincided with the subduction of the Indian plate below the Eurasian plate at about the same time as the Cretaceous-Tertiary K/T event, which is generally believed to have wiped out the entire Dinosaurs from this earth, around 65 million years ago.
Coincidently, this time period in the geological history coincides with various other events such as Deccan volcanism in peninsular India; asteroid impact in Mexico and selective extinction and evolution of flora and fauna.
But before I add on to this theory I would first like to complete the analysis of my observations made during the project of providing drinking water for the troops stationed in Tiger Male
 Drilling, welding and Dinosaur Extinction
The drilling rig which arrived from Leh after moving in the sandy deserts all along the Indus Tsangpo Suture Zone was positioned in the selected site. After offering the prayers the drilling work was started.  We all were waiting curiously for the groundwater to ooze from an anticipated depth of about 25 -30 meters below the ground. Few hours after the drilling commenced an unusual activity was observed at the site. A group of small lizards gathered around the drilling site. It is a well known fact that different animals behave differently under seismic conditions. As per the records available majority of them would become restless, behave abnormally, while others would come out of their hibernation sites below the ground and then gaze at the things as they are happening from a considerable distance. 
Lizards! at height of more then 3500 meters above the mean sea level and in these extreme climatic conditions was just unbelievable. There were many questions which needed an answer. Lizards are cold blooded reptiles, how would they survive the extreme harsh winters in these cold mountain deserts? I was busy asking these questions to myself when I noticed that it was not one or two lizards but there were herds of them. Each lizard, I don’t know from where they came were behaving very abnormally. These small wonderful creatures just crowded the site of drilling and if I am not wrong they were just few meters, yes I mean it 1-2 meters away from the site of drilling. The vibrations in the earth could be felt by us about 8-10 meters away from the drilling site. Lizards would just gaze at the drilling action in progress with their feet’s matching the action of their necks. They were scrutinising the drilling action not only with curiosity but also with care. Yes it was a great site to watch the lizards, small but they had become fearless of the presence of men and loved to enjoy the drilling. Later I realized that they wanted to move very close to the site of drilling. After pondering for sometime I realized that it was not the drilling work which fascinated them but it was the action of vibrations originated due the drilling action in the earth which actually fascinated the lizards. Their behaviour was really abnormal they had become fearless and the sound and earth vibration would move these small creatures here and there but not far away from the drilling site. I think they were totally absorbed by the shocks created in the earth by the drilling.
This was just the beginning of it and the story did end here. In between the drilling the casing pipes had to be lowered to protect the drilled bore from being collapsed. Hence welding had to be done so that joint is made in the pipes and they are lowered. The drilling compressor was put off. The welding generator was started so that the pipes could be welded. The drama of these lizards assumed new heights on seeing the sparks originating from the contact of the electrodes and the pipes took place while welding. I witnessed that these lizards not only became uncontrolled and rushed to the welding sites which were giving lights and sparkles but they were so captivated that they would move very close to the welder and at times would climb on  the shoes of the welder. The welder who was also confused and shocked by the unusual behaviour had to literally push these wonderful creatures back out of
fear. But gradually when we learnt about the fact that they were not meaning any harm to the welder but it was only their passion for the sparks which was driving them so close to the welding site, he really let them walk freely. 

Love and Passion: The Main Cause
The love of these reptiles for the vibrations in the earth and their passion for the sparks were really unmatched for. This could be only compared with the activities of the Moth/butterfly who would lay down their lives for the love of light. Unable to distinguish between the difference of light from the candle or the bulb these moths would just burn themselves without giving it a thought and in the process end their lives. Love and passion can really end ones life.
Others like humans have no passion for light but for sex yes. In today’s world AIDS (Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome) is a phenomenon which is slowly creeping up in our society and is the cause of slow death. Every one is going to have sex and AIDS virus will increase logarithmically and gradually weakening the progeny in near future causing death or in other words aiding in the process of extinction.
Processes, agents and agencies of mass extinctions may differ from time to time and may depend on the affinities and behaviour of the dominant species at that time hence cannot be generalized.
The vibrations in the earth caused due to drilling action in this story could be related with the shocks generated by the tectonic collision of India and China about 60-65 million years ago on one hand and the volcanic activity(both caused due to the intrusion of the granites on one hand and Deccan volcanism) on the other. The sparks from the welding electrodes could be similarly correlated with the sparks produced by the massive volcanic activity in the past. The love and passion of the Dinosaurs for both these activities might have ended their lives. Since these activities were episodic therefore the extinction was not a one time event but was episodic and could well be explained in the multiple layers of rocks from where Dinosaur fossils have been unearthed.
Deccan volcanism was episodic, granite intrusion was episodic, earthquakes which triggered Tsunamis and flash floods were also episodic. These entire natural geological phenomenon and other aspects related with them were interlinked and together led to the selective episodic death and their preservation in the past.
The earthquakes would cause lot of tremors in the earth forcing these huge creatures to move towards the epicentre. The volcanoes erupted periodically with lot of sparks and fireworks. These lights attracted the Dinosaurs in a similar fashion as the moths today are attracted towards the light of the candle which really ends their lives. They keep on turning to these lights even though they are severely burnt once, until they die. A similar process was observed by the author, when the sparks from the welding, seems to have hypnotised these lizards which moved fearlessly to the welding site without any problem.
All this was just looking like another film and I was watching it with curiosity. Mesmerized   and flabbergasted to see their love and affection for the vibrations caused by the drilling action and their passion to be with the sparking lights generated by the action of the welding rods. The show continued for the hours when finally we had to go to another site.
I had video-graphed the entire episode.
The aftermaths of these episodes continued to haunt me. I was just trying to analyse the observations and finally I knew what they were heading for yes their love, affection and passion for the vibrations and light and sparks really lead to the extinction of the dinosaurs.
The earthquakes also generated massive waves in the sea, the Tsunamis which rose to great heights and caused lot of flooding on land causing death of creatures on one hand and on the other leading to the preservation of already dead creatures with the massive sand bodies.   Since all the Dinosaurs would not accumulate in the same time or die in the same time therefore their end was not at once. But every time the cycle was repeated they died at the same site because of the fact that the epicentre of earthquake might have remained the same and secondly the Granite intrusion in the north and Deccan volcanism continued to flow from the same region for that particular time causing uninterrupted changes in climate and geochemistry in the oceans and land.
This is by far the best explanation which was available for the big event which was witnessed in those times. However there may be some lacunas probably related with dating of the granite intrusions and their relationship with the Deccan volcanism and the K/T event. Secondly, how far we can relate the behaviour of the lizards with that of the Dinosaurs or the moths?

The Main Questions
The questions such as why I have mentioned the above details in this paper and what is the relation of the data, collected at a place which has till date not reported sighting of any bone or fossil related to Dinosaurs or other creatures flourishing during those times, to do with the extinction of the Dinosaurs must be cropping the mind of the readers.  Well, with the help of the details gathered from the works of past scientists it seemed that more then 101 self contradicting theories to explain the extinction of Dinosaur had been proposed by the scientists in the past. Majority of these theories have already died out and others have not been accepted without questions.
Broadly speaking these theories and hypothesis can be divided into 2 main categories
  1. Gradual extinction
  2. Abrupt extinction.
The Gradual Extinction advocating gradual extinction mainly due to gradual death caused due to competition, change in climate, evolution of angiosperms and mammals , diseases, etc. theory got a bolt after the findings of David Fastovsky who analysised and published his findings in the October 2004 issue of Geology. According to him ``Dinosaur diversity was increasing logarithmically throughout their 160 million years on Earth,'' ``their increasing diversity seems to have been fuelled by the evolution of new innovations that allowed them to explore new habitat''. This puts an end to all the theories which advocate gradual decline as the cause leading to their extinction from this earth.
 The Abrupt Extinction proposing an abrupt extinction related with the Asteroid impact, Deccan volcanism, Acid rains, and flash floods gained momentum with the scientists in the past. As these events were supposed to be of global nature and cause tremendous changes on land, sea and environment to cause mass extinction. Important question which remains unanswered is why the dinosaur or ammonites died whereas other mammals and reptiles along with amphibians survived. Or to put it in other words, what was the cause of the Selective mass extinction in land and sea?
The Asteroid Impact: After the findings of Gerta Keller and her colleagues from Princeton University in 2004 many questions were raised against these theories which still need an answer. Keller revealed that the asteroid impact which formed the Chicxulub crater submerged off Mexico's Yucatan peninsula in America and more than 110 miles wide which had been identified as the K-T impact crater and was the remnant of the dinosaur-killing event, crashed 300000 years before dinosaurs died out. Moreover the source for the iridium anomaly found near the K/T Boundary was thought be the meteorite from the outer space. But its global nature could not be established and now volcanism is being thought to be the most important source.
The Deccan volcanism: Similarly the Deccan volcanism in peninsular India is now supposed to start 500000 years before the K/T event about 70 million years. Till now these two events were considered to first cause global warming by raising the temperatures due to the volcanic activity, then the clouds formed due to gases blocked the sun rays causing global cooling and acid rains, these caused rapid environmental changes. Unable to adapt to these speedy changing events, finally led to extinction of the Dinosaurs.  Though these theories were convincing but the explanation provided by the scientists who initially proposed these theories and later others who blindly supported them failed to explain the cause of selective extinction of Dinosaurs and other species and the taphonomic processes involved in their preservation in the past.
Earthquakes and Global Flash Flood: This theory was proposed by Michael J. Oard to explain the mass extinction of the dinosaurs which were buried rapidly by sediments during the global flood. This was also acceptable to the scientific community, since many of the dinosaur fossil sites do appear to be mass graveyards buried by fluvial sediments. But this failed to explain the reoccurrence of Dinosaurs fossils at the same site in the multiple layers.  The main drawback of this theory was that the explanation provided for the event was unsatisfactory. The author feels that this event may have caused loss of Dinosaur life but was not a killer in itself to cause mass extinction.. These flash floods might have caused the death of few Dinosaurs but their main significance was to aid in the taphonomic process which ultimately led to their preservation by bringing  with them thick piles of sand which covered the Dinosaurs and acted as a medium for their safe burial,. The author strongly feels that these flash floods acted as a medium to preserve the already dead Dinosaurs and was not the event which caused their extinction.  The cause of their death might have been something else and is discussed below.

Massive granite intrusions were never thought to be the cause of these extinctions in the past. Nor was any thought given to the behaviour of the creatures to the sudden changes in the environment.

The author strongly feels that any new theory proposed to explain the extinction of Dinosaurs should definitely answer the questions which remain unanswered by the scientists in the past. It should be simple and acceptable to all. Therefore the new theory should emphasise on answering the following points:
1.                  What were the reasons for the selective extinction of Dinosaurs and certain other species of plants and animals in land and sea?
2.                  Is asteroid impact and Deccan volcanism the only events to cause global impact to cause mass extinction or some other important event is still missing?
3.                  Cause of iridium anomaly on global scale at K/T boundary meteorite or volcanism?
4.                  Behaviour of Dinosaurs and other forms of life which became extinct on the event of earthquake volcanoes and flash Floods.
5.                  Events which could aid in taphonomic process  for preservation of the Dead Dinosaurs
6.                  Is plate tectonics collision, suturing, subduction and northward movement anything to do directly or indirectly with the extinction?
7.                  Is the massive granite intrusions, the batholiths extending 1000’s of miles across the Himalayas, Alps, Sierra Nevada the main cause? 

The New Theory

With all this in background and the intrusion of the massive granite at Tiger Male coupled with the biological observations made at the time of drilling to provide drinking water to the troops. An attempt is being made to correlate these and many other important questions related not only with the extinction of the Dinosaurs but also the various taphonomic processes involved in their preservation, inspite of the extreme geological conditions prevalent during those times.  I strongly felt that I was definitely heading for a very new and convincing theory and hypothesis to explain the selective extinction of Dinosaurs and other species in the past.                                                                                                        
Based on the observations made at Tiger Male the author proposes a new theory to answer the above questions and attempts to explain the selective extinction of Dinosaurs and various agencies responsible for their preservation.

Before proposing the new theory two assumptions are made
1.                  The timings of the massive granite intrusions all over the world coincided with the K/T event in the past.
2.                  Behaviour of the lizards was more or less similar to the Dinosaurs
3.                  Dinosaurs would also react to vibrations and sparks in a manner very similar to the lizards at Tiger male.

The new theory suggests that  the massive granite intrusions, the batholiths in the Himalayas, Alps and Sierra Nevada and the Deccan volcanism in the peninsular India could have been the reasons behind the iridium anomalies found at the K/T boundary all over the world. Various other factors discussed later in this paper globally influenced the climate and paleoenvironmental conditions and produced a period of global warming which caused selective extinction on land and sea during the K/T event around 65 million years ago. Findings by other scientists suggest that volcanism caused biotic stress almost as great as the mass extinction itself.
The author strongly feels that a structural and tectonic relationship exists between the Deccan volcanism in the peninsular India and granite intrusions in Himalayas. The tectonic collision, suturing and subduction of the Indian plate below the Eurasian Plate, coupled with northward movement of Indian plate caused tectonic stresses, lateral tension and structural deformity in it, in the form of a bend(noted in the form of Delhi Hardwar range. The rise in the Arravali range could be related to these structural anomalies of the past which is nothing but ramifications of the tectonic forces active in those times causing these deformations. The stress of this activity in the south was released and balanced at a place in Peninsula India where the plate bend and lot of weak planes in the form of faults, fissures and cracks were created. These were the places from where massive basaltic flows emerged leading to accumulation of the Deccan traps over the years. So Deccan volcanism and granite intrusion are the two faces of the same coin, incomplete and unexplainable without one another. A depression was created south of the suture zone, later this formed the basin for the foreland deposition of the sediments which eroded from the Himalayas and accumulated in this basin. Theories of hot spots and others related to Deccan volcanism alone seem unconvincing because they highlighted only one aspect and failed to explain the other. So we have the presence of global phenomenon which can explain the occurrence of the massive volcanism both in the land and the sea capable of causing various biotic and abiotic stresses of great magnitude leading to mass extinction and could also satisfactorily explain the presence of source for the iridium anomaly.
Earthquakes which were outcome of collision, suturing, subduction later volcanic activity triggered many changes not only on the land and sea but also among the animals and plants which behave abnormally during those times. Relationship of earthquakes and animals is a well known phenomenon and presently lot of research is going on to use certain animals to predict the earthquakes in China and Japan.  Tsunamis which were simultaneously triggered by the earthquakes in the seas during those times caused giant flooding in the sea and covered the land with the sand.
All these agencies acted together simultaneously, in which one event took place after another to ensure the end of Dinosaur Era on one hand and preservation of the dead creatures in the past on the other.
Looking in totality, the whole environment seemed to act in tune with each other not only aiding in the completion of the massive event of extinction which took place but also ensured the taphonomic preservation of the specimens so that they may be unearthed 65 million years after their death to be studied again with same mysteries surrounding them when they were alive.

The observations both geological (related with the granite intrusion helped us to find the new source for the iridium anomaly at the K/T boundary on one hand) and biologically (helped to correlate the abnormal behaviour of the lizards) made at the time of drilling of borewell at Tiger Male closely point to a new theory to explain the extinction of the Dinosaurs.
 We had the source for the massive seismic volcanic and flash flooding activity of global nature at the K/T times which could have resulted due to collisional tectonics, suturing, subduction of the Plates, intrusions of huge granites, (the batholiths in Himalayas, Alps and Sierra Nevada) and Deccan volcanism. All of these massive geological processes triggered episodic earthquakes to generate Tsunamis, which caused giant flash floods.  The explanation for the selective extinction of the Dinosaurs could be related to their love for vibrations (earthquakes) and their passion for sparks(volcanoes) which drove them to the selective extinction whereas the Tsunamis caused huge floods which aided in the taphonomic processes which ultimately led to their preservation in the era of geological uncertainties. Other small creatures survived K/T because they were not attracted by these violent processes active in the past in those times or in other words they never fell in love and were not passionate about the geological processes.