Around 215 million years ago, an asteroid about two to five miles across scorched through earth's atmosphere and slammed into the northern region of the supercontinent Pangaea, scientists believe.
The pleasingly circular crater left behind now sits in the sparsely populated Manicouagan Region of Quebec, Canada, and is the largest clearly visible crater on earth — roughly ten times the size of New York City.
Scientists have long puzzled over possible impacts that the so-called "Manicouagan event" had on life. At one point, it was thought that it may have caused the Jurassic-Triassic extinction, the one that led to the global dominance of dinosaurs.
But it turned out that the Manicouagan event took place about 12 million years too early, leaving scientists scratching their chins. Now a study published in the journal Scientific Reports suggests that the Manicouagan impact may have created a mass extinction of its own and may have contributed to the Jurassic-Triassic extinction and the resulting dino-domination, after all.
See photos of the crater from the Manicouagan event as it appears today:
Remnants of one of the largest impact craters still preserved on the surface of the Earth. Occurring about 212 million years ago. Lake Manicouagan in northern Quebec, Canada. June 1, 2001. (Photo by: Universal History Archive/UIG via Getty Images)
Manicouagan Impact Structure in Quebec, Canada. The crater, dated at 214 million years. It has been proposed that the impact was created by an asteroid with a diameter of about 3.1 miles (5 kilometres). (Photo by: Universal History Archive/UIG via Getty Images)
Manicouagan Crater, The Manicouagan Reservoir Crater In Quebec, Canada, Is One Of The Largest Meteorite Craters In The World, It Was Formed When The Earth Was Blasted By A Giant Meteorite At The End Of The Triassic Period Some 210 Million Years Ago. (Phot
Manicouagan Crater, The Largest And Oldest Crater Manicouagan Crater, Quebec, Canada, Taken April 28, 2002, From The International Space Station. (Photo By Encyclopaedia Britannica/UIG Via Getty Images)
Discover More Like This
BACK TO SLIDE
Available data suggest that three types of sea critters (microscopic radiolarians, eel-like conodonts, and mollusks called ammonoids) went through three big extinction phases leading up to the Jurassic-Triassic. The later die-offs have been connected to ocean anoxia and volcanic eruptions. But the first — which appears to be massive and global in scale — remained a mystery.
In an attempt to solve it, a team of Japanese researchers looked at fossils embedded in a claystone seafloor area of the former super ocean, the Panthalassa, which once surrounded Pangaea. They found that right around the time of the Manicouagan impact, many species of tiny radiolarians vanished. The resulting collapse of the ocean ecosystem, the researchers hypothesize, may have caused the mass extinction of the conodonts and ammonoids.
The Jurassic-Triassic extinction wiped out 34 percent of marine species, and on land, many reptiles, amphibians, and other creatures vanished. Dinosaurs took advantage of the ecological vacancies, rising to prominence during the Jurassic.
RELATED: See some of the wildest dinosaurs scientists believe existed
Dinosaur bones and illustrations
Dinosaur bones and illustrations
Fossil of a short-tailed pterosaur, a flying reptile, Pterodactylus kochi, Upper Jurassic Solnhofen limestone, Eichstaett, Germany, Photographed under controlled conditions (Specimen courtesy of Raimund Albersdoerfer, Germany), (Photo by Wild Horizons/UIG via Getty Images)
Fossil of a short-tailed pterosaur, a flying reptile, Pterodactylus kochi, Upper Jurassic Solnhofen limestone, Solnhofen, Bavaria, Germany, Photographed under controlled conditions (Specimen courtesy of Raimund Albersdoerfer, Germany), (Photo by Wild Horizons/UIG via Getty Images)
CANADA - OCTOBER 30: The spiked skull of a Styracosaurus, Toronto, Canada (Photo by Ira Block/National Geographic/Getty Images)
UNITED STATES - SEPTEMBER 09: A Hyolith from the Cambrian has an armored shell body, Museum of Natural History, Washington, District of Columbia (Photo by O. Louis Mazzatenta/National Geographic/Getty Images)
CANADA - MAY 30: The skull and crest of a Parasaurolophus, Toronto, Canada (Photo by Ira Block/National Geographic/Getty Images)
UNSPECIFIED - MARCH 23: Struthiomimus dinosaur hunting a dragonfly (Struthiomimus altus) (Photo by De Agostini Picture Library/De Agostini/Getty Images)
UNSPECIFIED - MARCH 23: Side profile of an aellosaurus walking (Photo by De Agostini Picture Library/De Agostini/Getty Images)
06/09/98 - Location- Smithsonian Natural History Museum caption- Nathan Myhrvold has some interesting theories on the evolution, disappearance of dinosaurs. His models have been created on computer. His day job is Chief Technical Officer of Microsoft. Rear is the Diplodocus that has the long tail with the fused sections in all the tails, leading Myhrvold to the belief that the dinosaur cracked its tail like a whip, the end section moving near the speed of sound. - Photo By Craig Herndon TWP (Photo by Craig Herndon/The Washington Post/Getty Images)
Dr Adam Yates, from the Bernard Price Institute for Paleontological Research, looks at the 'Aardonyx Celestae', a newly discovered fossil skeleton in Johannesburg on November 11, 2009. South African palaeontologists announced the discovery of a new species of 'transition' dinosaur that straddles the divide between the four-legged giant plant-eating sauropods and their bipedal carnivorous predecessors. The dinosaur roamed the area between 183 million and 200 million years ago, measured between 7 and 9 metres long. The specimen was a juvenile, which was aged between 7 and 10 years. The Aardonyx Celestae, as the new dinosaur has been named, was discovered on a farm in central Free State province in the Karoo Basin, an area rich in fossils. AFP PHOTO / ALEXANDER JOE (Photo credit should read ALEXANDER JOE/AFP/Getty Images)
UNDATED - In this handout provided by the Carnegie Museum of Natural History, an artist's redering depicts a previously unknown bird-like dinosaur that was formally introduced to the scientific community by scientists with the Smithsonians National Museum of Natural History, the Carnegie Museum of Natural History and the University of Utah March 19, 2014. Dubbed Anzu wyliei, referring both to a mythological feathered demon and the name of a Carnegie museum trustee's grandson, the seven-foot-tall creature weighed about 500 pounds when it roamed western North America 66 to 68 million years ago. (Illustration by Mark Klingler/Carnegie Museum of Natural History via Getty Images)
UNSPECIFIED - CIRCA 2003: Reconstruction of the flora and fauna of a marshy environment from the Jurassic Period, drawing. (Photo by DeAgostini/Getty Images)
Discover More Like This
BACK TO SLIDE
According to the scientists, the study shows that asteroid impacts like the Manicouagan event can have profound effects on oceanic ecosystems. And as for the asteroid/dinosaur relationship, perhaps it can be summed up by the classic parental threat: "I brought you into this world, and I can take you out."