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The mystery is forever solved


Fry: Uh, what really killed the dinosaurs?


While writing a story, an author needs a way to show how bad things would get if the Big Bad took control or the Applied Phlebotinum blew up. So the author attributes some historical disaster to their plot. And what's the biggest disaster one can imagine?

Why, none other than the extinction that wiped out the dinosaurs, better known as (depending on the source) either the K-T[1] or the K-Pg[2] extinction in paleontological terms. Not only did this extinction wipe out almost two-thirds of all life on Earth and dethrone the dinosaurs, it also set the stage for most of the modern ecosystems we see today. The extinction did this by making the planet a giant hellhole.

Despite being confirmed with a huge degree of certainty and consensus to be some kind of asteroid impact, debating has made the K-Pg extinction ideal for the sheer amount of theories as to why the dinosaurs died out; rivaling that of Who Shot JFK?. What's one more crazy theory going to hurt?

Ironically, most writers tend to ignore the Permian extinction, a mass extinction even bigger than the one that wiped out the dinosaurs. Because, you know, dinosaurs are cool.

A subtrope of Historical In-Joke. Compare Somewhere a Paleontologist Is Crying, which this trope can fall into if not done well. Contrast with Lost World, where the dinosaurs manage to duck and cover in a cave/valley/jungle before the big event.

Examples of Phlebotinum Killed the Dinosaurs include:

Anime and Manga

  • A tennis player wiped out the dinosaurs in The Prince of Tennis, when he hits tennis balls so fast they go back in time and wipe out the dinosaurs, beating his opponent. What Do You Mean It's Not Awesome??
  • In one chapter of Franken Fran, Fran claims that the dinosaurs went extinct because they were too large and inefficient to survive, to try and justify her disbelief at how the Monster of the Week could even exist. She fails biology forever and makes paleontologists cry, but kudos to having a T.rex with protofeathers.
    • She's a surgeon, not a paleontologist. Her grasp of anything outside medicine is minimal at best.
  • ChoRyuJin killed the dinosaurs in GaoGaiGar. A giant meteor was involved but mostly it was because of ChoRyuJin.
  • Getter Rays in Getter Robo are deadly to dinosaurs. They didn't completely wipe out the Dinosaurs though, as the Dinosaur Empire was able to hide in the Magma Layer. Hence the heroes using Getter Robo to finish the job when the Dinos show up in modern times.
  • The meteor was deliberately dropped by aliens in Guyver, to clear out their initial experimental soldiers — dinosaurs — and make way for whatever survived.
  • From Keroro Gunsou, Angol Mois' mother is credited for this (in context, the Angol are a race of planet-splitting world destroyers, so this crosses into Holding Back the Phlebotinum.)
    • The first movie contradicts this however, by showing murals of ancient Keronian weapon Kiruru of being responsible.
  • The Manga version of S-Cry-ed shows that Kazuma accidentally killed the dinosaurs with one of his punches (that broke through the walls of space and time).

Comic Books

  • In the 2000 AD serial Flesh, the dinosaurs were wiped out due to over hunting by time-traveling cowboys. Yeah...
  • On a similar note, Jason from FoxTrot theorizes that time-traveling big game hunters killed the dinosaurs.
  • The Far Side states that dinosaurs died out via smoking. This becomes Hilarious in Hindsight when one finds out that the cannabis family (which also includes marijuana) were important ground cover plants in the Mesozoic. Maybe Larson isn't so off the marker after all.
  • In Predator: Concrete Jungle, it is said that the Predators exterminated the dinosaurs. This is ignored by virtually all other Predator works.
  • A dinosaur hold the wrong end of the wand when performing his vanishing spell, so they all went to the Land of Lost Things (Donald Duck). Remember kids, improper handling of dangerous equipment grants horrible consequences.
  • The comic continuation of Angel has a in-universe movie adaptation of Angel's adventures claiming that it was a Vampire Tyrannosaurus that killed all the Dinosaurs, after having cursed God in his "own Dinosaur way" after loosing a mate, and Satan giving him the power.
  • Subverted in Dilbert; dinosaurs aren't extinct, they're just hiding in your furniture. Bob the Dinosaur managed to evade humans for years thanks to wearing tennis shoes for fast running. All of the "fossils" that are discovered in modern times were purchased at dinosaur prank novelty stores and thrown into tarpits just to fool people.
  • According to Dr. Dinosaur, mammal energies from the present traveled back to the past, killing all of the dinosaurs except for the Doctor himself (who gained his GENIUS INTELLIGENCE!). Dr. Atomic Robo Tesla strongly disagrees with this hypothesis.
  • In Planetary, a giant multi-dimensional ship (similar a little to The Carrier) crashed on Earth, killing the dinosaurs.
  • An old New Yorker cartoon has a mother disciplining her daughter in a natural history museum, telling her "They got extinct because they didn't listen to their mommies."

Fan Works



 Jane: So, dinosaurs went extinct when they no longer knew how to love one another?

Tom Servo: In a wrong kind of way, yeah.

  • 1998's Mothra 3 places the blame on the Cretaceous version of King Ghidorah, who now plans to do the same to Humans by devouring the life-energies of our kids.
    • It's implied that Desghidorah from the first film was the reason life went extinct on Mars and that it was going to do the same to prehistoric Earth until Mothra managed to imprison him for all eternity.
  • In Batman and Robin, Mr. Freeze thinks the Ice Age killed the dinosaurs - a bit of a suspect statement coming from a scientist, even if paleontology isn't his field. He is of course wrong.
  • The opening narration for Night of the Comet states that the comet (which turns most animal life into red dust) last came close to Earth when the dinosaurs disappeared.
  • In Super Mario Bros: The Movie, it turns out that the dinosaurs were less 'wiped out' and more 'sent to another dimension when the meteor impact split the worlds.' As seen below, a certain Super Sentai series either borrowed a plot point from the oddest of sources, or stumbled onto a hilarious coincidence.
  • Fantasia goes for a more realistic option, where the dinosaurs died out because of droughts, causing mass starvation as well. It's notable that Fantasia was made before it was discovered that an asteroid impact caused mass extinction.
  • Blackadder Back & Forth introduced the dinosaurs to Baldrick's unwashed undergarments, the foul odour wiping them out.
  • In Transformers: Age of Extinction, the dinosaurs were the victims of Hostile Terraforming when the Precursors to the Cybertronians bombed the Earth with their Seeds, turning them into the metal that Cybertronians are made from.
  • In the 2017 Power Rangers reboot, the meteor struck Earth because Zordon had it called down in an attempt to kill Rita.


  • In Monster, Big Bad Lotus mentions having to "undo" the dinosaurs because they were part of the universe's master plan to destroy her.
  • In The Dresden Files, Thomas Raith claims that love killed the dinosaurs. Harry calls him out on it.
    • This probably deserves a little elaboration - yes, the meteor did wipe out all the big stuff, but the dinosaurs didn't regain their position because mammals could feel love and be devoted to their mates and offspring, making them more likely to survive.
      • Maiasaura, Oviraptor, and Protoceratops would all like a word with you...
      • Those omissions could be due to Did Not Do the Research, but then again they might be due to an Unreliable Narrator. Thomas is not a paleontologist, he is a vampire relating a childhood story about The Power of Love and why it's dangerous. He might be exaggerating, or his father might have been exaggerating when he told the story for the purposes of driving a point home like any other Aesop.
      • Or the story predates the discovery of dinosaur nesting behaviors. It's a vampire folk tale, after all, and could've been concocted shortly after the word "dinosaur" was invented.
    • In any case, it's a throwaway line used to illustrate why love is so dangerous to the White Court, and has absolutely no effect on the plot.
  • The entire novel Tyrannosaur Canyon revolves around finding that Imported Alien Phlebotinum killed the dinosaurs. Specifically, that aliens sent a disease to wipe out the dinosaurs so mammals would diversify and eventually evolve into humans. Yeah...
  • The Monster of the Week in Megamorphs #2 causes the extinction of the dinosaurs by redirecting a meteor earthward. To rephrase it, the dinosaurs were killed by a plain old meteor....FLUNG BY ALIENS!
    • To wipe out OTHER aliens who wanted to settle on Earth and plant broccoli.
  • Good ol' Lovecraft actually subverts this trope. Apparently Cthulhu and his minions were the cause of the Permian extinction.
    • Some fanon sources claim Cthulhu was also responsible for wiping out the Dinosaurs, cause that would be awesome
  • Isaac Asimov's Day of the Hunters kills off the dinosaurs due to overhunting by intelligent dinosaurs...with Frickin Lazer Guns!
    • According to a note by the author, he was somewhat embarrassed by the story because it was one of his early ones and had an exceedingly Anvilicious ending, rather than let the reader draw their own conclusions.
  • Another example of "sentient dinosaurs end up causing the K-T" occurs in the story Hermes of the Ages by Frederick D. Gottfried. Sapient coelurosaurs develop biological warfare, which they THOUGHT the effects of their bioweapons would be limited to their own species... it goes horribly, horribly wrong.
    • And another one is Who Lies Sleeping: the Dinosaur Heritage and the Extinction of Man by Mike Magee. Though the sentient dinosaurs are ultimately wiped out by a nuclear war, they had already wrecked the world beyond reparation via massive pollution, climate change and deforestation to give pastures to their massive herds of ceratopsians and hadrosaurs.
  • David Drake's Time Safari. Human beings travel back in time to hunt dinosaurs, and of course most of these trips go back to the Late Cretaceous because everybody wants to bag a T.rex. You may think you know where this was going, but its subverted hard — what actually does in the dinosaurs is a captive tyrannosaur that was re-released into the Cretaceous wild. Seems it was carrying a bird infection that it picked up while it was in the 20th century...
  • Played with in Michael Crichton's The Lost World, in which Ian Malcolm makes a study on extinction and begins to debunk the theory of the dinosaurs being wiped out by a meteor. Towards the end, they establish that any mistake or miscalculation in an ecosystem, no matter how small, can compromise the survival of an entire species.
  • David Weber's Empire From the Ashes trilogy has the Achuultani, genocidal aliens who have been wiping out all complex life in the galaxy (besides themselves) for over seventy million years. While they were destroying a defensive base of the alien "First Imperium" on the planet that the asteroid belt used to be, they whacked Earth with a much smaller asteroid, causing the extinction.
  • Fanon of The Bible holds that Noah's Flood did in the dinosaurs - most from the flood itself (along with every other species), and the few left that were on the ark couldn't handle the resulting climate changes.
    • Another theory would be that whatever killed the dinosaurs took place somewhere during the seven "days" (which are interpreted by some as quite long periods of time rather than days by the human sense).
    • There are two other answers held by some Young-Earth Creationist groups:
      • Dinosaurs were creatures corrupted by the existence of sin, making them Always Chaotic Evil.
      • Dinosaurs never existed and their remains were placed by either God or Satan to test the faith of the less committed Christians.
  • In The Science Of Discworld, the Terribly Dull Lizards — like many organisms from other time periods, very nearly including us — were indeed wiped out by a random and cataclysmic meteorite impact. It's still Phlebotinum Killed the Dinosaurs, because the reason there are so many rocks drifting around the solar system to become meteorites is because the UU student body had been tossing them at "The Target" (= Jupiter) as part of a cross-cosmic video game, and they never bothered to sweep up their unused ammunition.
  • In Kage Baker's The Company Novels, a defective Immortal claims to have wiped out the dinosaurs through his abuse of time travel. However, he's also quite clearly insane, so it isn't certain if he's telling the truth.
  • In the Star Trek: The Lost Era novel The Buried Age, the Permian extinction event is chosen instead - it was a consequence of an artificially-induced galaxy-wide disaster. The Sufficiently Advanced Aliens known as Manraloth accidentally caused the entire galactic population to Ascend to a Higher Plane of Existence, releasing terrible amounts of energy which irradiated planets. In the aftermath, the artificialy maintained habitats of the Manraloth degraded, destabilizing stars, among other dangerous side-effects. The galaxy was an irradiated hellhole until sapient life evolved again millions of years later.
  • In The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, obviously dinosaurs conflict with the Earth's true ten million year age. In the novels it's mentioned by Slartibartfast that fake fossils were installed during the planet's construction. This could either have some vital purpose to the intended function of the planet, or the Magratheans could just be Doing It for the Art.
  • In Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency, it's not the dinosaurs whose extinction is blamed on phlebotinum, but that of the dodo. A time-traveler indirectly caused it to be wiped out because he'd meddled with prehistory to save the coelacanth.
  • In Charles Pellegrino's Flying to Valhalla, it's suggested that the mass extinction between the Eocene and the Oligocene was engineered by aliens to prevent Earth from becoming a threat.
  • Jack Chalker's Well World series has it that when the universe was manually rebooted, a world was chosen for each of the races to get seeded upon. Earth came up almost perfect for humanity, but had developed dinosaurs naturally. So the Guardian tweaked the axial tilt of the world slightly, thus killing most of them off to make room for the incoming colonists. Needless to say, time was moving at an extremely fast pace during this - only moments passed by during the process.
  • Author and physician Robin Cook's novel Invasion, had the dinosaurs completely wiped out by super advanced alien entities hoping to assimilate intelligent creatures like humanity into their collective, showing that despite his expertise in medicine, Cook knew jack-squat about paleontology.
  • Somewhere there is a novel which describes how the dinosaurs died off after a war between various alien species in the solar system destroyed the millennia-old antigrav generators which had been keeping earth's gravity artificially low. The overgrown dinosaurs simply collapsed. The defending alien species was also using some dinosaurs as living tanks.
  • The Ryk Spoor and Eric Fint novel Boundary (and the sequels) also used the alien-directed asteroid projectile explanation (apparently in a civil war against bases on Earth).
  • In Dracula Unbound, the extinction of the dinosaurs was triggered by a nuclear bomb set off by time-travelers in order to wipe out a nest of vampires, which evolved from pterosaurs.
  • The Steve Alten novel Domain, the asteroid that wiped out the dinosaurs was in fact a spaceship of an evil multi-dimensional entity that was shot down by the good aliens, who then land on the planet (Earth), genetically mess with the local fauna to eventually create Humanity, create the Mayan civilization, and use its prophecies to foretell the end of the world which will happen when the bad alien's ship gains enough power to reactivate, on December 21, 2012.

Live-Action TV

  • According to the Doctor Who serial Earthshock, the "meteor" that wiped out the dinosaurs was actually a Cyberman ship which crashed into the planet with Adric on board.
  • Power Rangers Dino Thunder plays an odd twist on it- it was just a random meteorite, but it became a magical meteorite, which shattered into mineral macguffins, which then imprinted on the dinosaurs (possibly absorbing dino life energy in the process).
    • On the other hand, the series Dino Thunder was based on, Bakuryuu Sentai Abaranger, holds it that the meteorite didn't kill the dinosaurs, but instead transported them to an alternate universe where they thrive to this day, having long since developed into super-intelligent Animal Mecha.
  • Kyoryu Sentai Zyuranger gives us Bandora :whose son was killed by a dinosaur. She sold her soul to the devil to gain the power to destroy the dinosaurs. When she was sealed, only two dinosaur eggs remained. When she's revived, her main goal is to destroy those two eggs.
  • Engine Sentai Go-onger has the villains reviving the monster who destroyed the dinosaurs. Yes, that makes three possible fates for the dinosaurs in Super Sentai. One wonders what happened to them in the universe where the team ups take place...
  • Star Trek: Voyager suggests that, while most died off, the Hadrosaurs evolved into the Voth and left the planet.
    • The Expanded Universe intimates that Q killed the dinosaurs after using a spatial rift to divert an asteroid hurled at him by another Q. He would later be charged with overseeing the rebuilding of Earth's ecosystem, including nurturing any sentients that might arise. He left a gift for us in the form of the platypus.
      • Bonus points for explicitly stating that the asteroid had iridium in it, which was determined to be true for the dinosaur-ending asteroid.
  • The X-Files two-parter "The Sixth Extinction" briefly skirts the topic of what killed the dinosaurs, suggesting that Ancient Astronauts visited Earth five times before, destroying its dominant species and introducing new ones. The mammals (including us humans) are the latest masters of earth, introduced after the "fifth extinction"--a.k.a. the Dinosaur Extinction Event. And our own time to go is nearing fast.
  • In Dinosaurs, the last episode revealed that the dinosaurs were wiped out by Earl Sinclair. No, this wasn't one of the funny 'paleontologist in the present' episodes; we end with the family shivering as the ice piles up, Earl having to explain to his family why they are all about to die thanks to the environmental disasters that his Corrupt Corporate Executive boss caused him to undertake.


  • Ayreon: "We vanquished the dinosaurs with the trajectory of a child's lost meteorite."

Tabletop Games

  • In D20 Modern's Dark•Matter setting, while not specifically mentioning the dinosaurs, numerous historical disasters, and also times of prosperity, are tied to the ebb and flow of dark matter, used as the setting's Applied Phlebotinum.
  • One of three alien races who commonly interact with Earth humans in Conspiracy X are the "Saurians", mysterious reptilian aliens with many forms who want to take over. They are actually the dinosaurs, they owned the planet long before us, and they had extremely advanced technology. What finally did them in was an experimental FTL drive that failed in the middle of a huge space civil war, trapping just about every single Saurian still alive at the time within the temporal stasis field around an artificial black hole. It took the black hole 65 million years to shrink to the point that some Saurian ships have managed to free themselves of it's pull, and the crew members have discovered, to their great dismay, that while they were gone... All kinds of things happened to their planet.

Video Games

  • Chrono Trigger has the dinosaurs being killed off because of the fall of Lavos. The world isn't Earth, but it's similar enough that this event occurred 65 million years ago like the actual extinction of the dinosaurs. For contrast, the rulers of said dinosaurs were bipedal and sentient.
  • Final Fantasy VII hints at this trope. There are enormous, dinosaur-like bones on the Northern Continent. You even run down one's spine in the final dungeon, which is where a cosmic horror meteor thing hit.
  • X-COM Terror From The Deep makes the asteroid a crashed colony ship.
  • The Black Marker from Dead Space lore was found in the Chicxulub and is about 65 million years old. No way that's a coincidence.
  • The Pokémon Genesect is thought of as having wiped out the dinosaurs, as the species lived right before the Permian extinction and a revived and enhanced specimen is an Expy of the infamous Purposefully Overpowered mon Mewtwo. Realistically, it was probably a casualty rather than the cause.
  • One of the missions in Super Scribblenauts is to cause the dinosaurs to go extinct without asteroids or weapons. You have many options: plague, flooding, drought, a black hole, God, Cthulhu...



  Dinosaur #2: Indeed, summon the meteors.


Web Original

Western Animation

  • One episode of The Emperors New School has Yzma combine a time machine, invisibility device and an evil MP 3 player (it only plays disco music!), which is then lost in time. It becomes a Brick Joke at the end of the episode when Kuzco flips the show to a documentary about dinosaurs, who begin dying off from the disco music.
  • In Samurai Jack, Aku falls to Earth in the form of a meteorite. Guess who happens to be in the blast radius when Aku hits.
  • Fry finds out what really killed the dinosaurs in one episode of Futurama, when he encounters a giant brain that knows everything.

 Fry: Uh, what killed the dinosaurs?



 Calzone: Uh, you're da species, and I'm da extinction!!


  God: These guys are awesome. Why'd I ever send them to Mars?

  • Subverted in Justice League Unlimited. It looks like Chucko, dropped off in prehistoric times by Lord Chronos, will hunt the dinosaurs to extinction only for an asteroid to drop right on his head.
  • In The Real Adventures of Jonny Quest, the dinosaurs were wiped out by an incredibly powerful time traveling nuke.
  • There was a Ren and Stimpy episode where an old man told the titular characters several ridiculous theories on how the dinosaurs died, one of which was that "they thought they were Superman, and jumped off the roof."
  • Adventure Time suggests that it wasn't so much the meteor but the essence of the Lich contained within.

Real Life

  • While it's pretty certain that there was an asteroid impact that occurred right around the K-T extinction, there is a significant amount of debate as to whether this impact was the primary cause of the extinction, a trigger that released a bigger disaster such as an underground gas bubble or super volcano, one of a number of nasty things that were going on in the biosphere around that time, or pretty much unrelated to the extinction itself.
    • Of course dinosaurs aren't actually extinct, they survived in the form of birds. Next time you eat [Chicken/Turkey/Duck/Bald Eagle], you will be eating an evolved dinosaur. What most people think of as dinosaurs are actually Non-Avian Dinosaurs, unlike their avian counterparts, they are quite extinct.
  • Often ignored in fictional portrayals is that the dinosaurs were the top of a food-chain-wide extinction event; the "direct" victims of the event (whatever it was) probably would have been plants, algae, and plankton, and it was their disappearance that killed the animals which ate them, killing the animals which ate them, etc.
  1. Cretaceous-Tertiary
  2. Cretaceous-Paleogene/Palaeogene