In what surely must be the first published paper to have a list of authors longer than the abstract, 41 scientists led by Peter Schulte recently concluded that the extinction of the dinosaurs was indeed the result of the Chicxulub impact off the Yucatan Penninsula 65.5 million years ago (abstract).

Wait a minute – hasn’t this idea been kicking around for at least 30 years now? How is this in any way ‘new’ news?

Well, one reason may stem from a name that isn’t included among the 41: Gerta Keller of Princeton University. Over the past several years she has written a number of both intriguing and controversial articles that call into question the assumed, prominant role of the Chicxulub impact: namely the double-edged sword of it predating the K-Pg boundary by 300,000 years, and Deccan volcanism playing the pivotal role in the mass extinction.

Though the general public is largely unaware of the debate, that has not had any bearing on the impact of Keller’s research within the scientific community. Given some of the reaction to it, I have to wonder if this latest paper is more of a public relations, ‘consensus’ tactic than anything else (certainly critics of Keller such as Philippe Claeys are among its authors).

If so, it’s working wonders. Consider headlines such as this one from Scientific American:

“A Theory Set in Stone: An Asteroid Killed the Dinosaurs, After All – A single asteroid impact near the Yucatan remains the best explanation for the massive Cretaceous-Paleogene extinction, scientists conclude in a new, deep review.”

Or how about quotes like this from the LA Times which proclaim a ‘Dream Team’ conclusion:

“It’s official: The extinction of the dinosaurs and a host of other species 65.5 million years ago was caused by a massive asteroid that crashed into the Gulf of Mexico, creating worldwide havoc, an international team of researchers said Thursday.”

That said, the review is an excellent one. My only complaint is that being a Science article it’s very short – a 15-20 pager would be nice! – though the supplemental material is a valuable addition. If you have access or are willing to toss down a few bucks, I urge you to check it out.

On a semi-related note, anyone else slightly disconcerted by seeing “K-Pg” instead of “K-T”?

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