Geological finds in the Lattengebirge near Bad Reichenhall tell of the extinction of the dinosaurs. Two events befell the dinosaurs 66 million years ago, as finds now suggest.

At a hard-to-reach place in the Berchtesgadener Land, researchers have found out more about the reason why dinosaurs and other animal species died out.

A massive asteroid impact and violent volcanic eruptions around 66 million years ago wiped out 75 percent of life on earth, including the dinosaurs. Dust and ash darkened the sun, night reigned on the planet for months, followed by a cold period lasting years.

The geologists from the State Office for the Environment (LfU) discovered fossilized traces of the catastrophe at an altitude of 1240 meters in an almost vertical cliff in the Lattengebirge waterfall ditch: a tiny white-beige deposit layer with asteroid dust and thin layers of volcanic dust above it. The find could write an important chapter in the history books, said Bavaria’s Environment Minister Thorsten Faithr (free voters). “In the Alpine region, the history of the dinosaurs and our planet is enriched by an exciting facet.”

Asteroid impact with dramatic consequences

Because the petrified traces suggest a dramatic connection, as Roland Eichhorn, head of the geological service at the LfU, says. The asteroid impact in modern-day Mexico may have been so powerful that not only did dust kick up miles into the atmosphere, but pressure waves ran across the globe — fueling volcanism just on the other side of the globe in modern-day India.

This hypothesis is now supported because the asteroid dust with traces of the space precious metal iridium lay under the layer of volcanic dust with mercury and tellurium, Eichhorn said. Thanks to new investigation methods, detailed statements about the sequence of events could be made. It is the first find of both layers on top of each other in Germany.

As early as 2015, scientists from the LfU began to search for this rock formation at the point in the Lattengebirge. At the beginning of the 1960s, a continuous rock sequence for the time of the asteroid impact 66 million years ago was proven on the basis of microfossils. In addition, a conspicuous white-beige layer was discovered in the limestone and marlstone, which marked the beginning of the mass extinction.