Evidence points to giant meteor as dinosaur killer

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ONE of the greatest mysteries of prehistory - what killed the dinosaurs - could finally be solved, with new evidence pointing to a prime suspect from outer space, writes Steve Connor.

Scientists have found the strongest evidence yet that a giant meteor crashed into the Earth 65 million years ago, creating a catastrophic change in climate and wiping out half the creatures that walked the land.

Analysis of the rock from a buried Mexican crater 125 miles in diameter, caused by the impact of a meteor several miles wide, has identified the most likely culprit.

Unusual rocks from the Chixculub crater on the Yucatan peninsula of Mexico are chemically identical to 65 million- year-old rocks found over 1,000 miles away in Haiti. Researchers conclude that the meteor must have ejected enough material into the atmosphere to cut out sunlight and cause global cooling.

Although scientists suggested in 1980 that a large meteor may have been responsible for the death of the dinosaurs, they were unable to identify the crater. A research team at Dartmouth College in New Hampshire say in today's Nature that one other possible candidate for the meteor site, at Manson in Iowa, can be eliminated.