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Phlebotinum Killed the Dinosaurs
The mystery is forever solved
Fry: Uh, what really killed the dinosaurs?
Big Brain: MEEEEEEEEEE!

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. Despite being confirmed with a huge degree of certainty and consensus to be some kind of asteroid impact, debating has made the Cretaceous-Paleogene 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? Other works actually go along with this, saying that their factor caused the meteorite to fall to earth, or was the impactor itself.

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.

Similarly fantastic theories have sometimes been suggested to explain why other species went extinct, though due to Small Reference Pools, most writers tend to ignore the Permian-Triassic extinction, which was the biggest mass extinction ever. Triassic-Jurassic extinction, which was almost as widespread as the Cretaceous-Paleogene and directly led to dinosaurs becoming the dominant forms of life for the next 135 million years, is even more obscure. Apparently it's only the fall of the dinosaurs, and not their rise to prominence, that's deemed interesting enough for fiction.

A subtrope of Historical In-Joke. See The Dinosaurs Had It Coming when the dinosaurs' extinction is blamed on themselves. Compare Artistic License - Paleontology, 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:

    open/close all folders 

    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.
  • ChoRyuJin killed the dinosaurs in GaoGaiGar. A giant meteor was involved, but the fans like to think it was all ChoRyuJin's fault.
  • 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 Scryed shows that Kazuma accidentally killed the dinosaurs with one of his punches (that broke through the walls of space and time).
  • This Ugly Yet Beautiful World: Hikari is the embodiment of extinction, and travels from planet to planet, causing mass extinctions to make room for new species. Last time she came to Earth was to wipe out the dinosaurs for mammals.

    Comic Books 
  • In the 2000 AD serial Flesh, the dinosaurs were wiped out due to over hunting by time-traveling cowboys. Yeah...
  • In FoxTrot, Jason theorizes that time-traveling big game hunters killed the dinosaurs.
  • In Predator: Concrete Jungle, it is said that the Predators exterminated the dinosaurs. This is ignored by virtually all other Predator works.
  • 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 losing a mate, and Satan giving him the power.
  • 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 giant multi-dimensional ship (similiar a little to The Carrier) crashed on Earth, killing the dinosaurs.
  • In the Alan Moore-penned comic 1963: No One Escapes The Fury!, the villain's opening line is, "Who killed the dinosaurs? I did!" Given that he's a psychic living fossil T-rex, he can back that up.

    Fan Works 

    Film 
  • In Reign of Fire, it was the dragons that killed the dinosaurs.
  • 1998's Rebirth Of Mothra 3 places the blame on the Cretaceous version of King Ghidorah, who now plans to do the same to humanity by devouring the life-energies of our children.
    • It's implied that Desghidorah from the first film was the reason life went extinct on Mars, and that it also planned to do the same to prehistoric Earth until Mothra managed to imprison him for all eternity.
  • In Batman & 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 Kamen Rider J, the extinction of the dinosaurs was due to the parasitic lifeform Fog Mother who arrived on Earth to feed and spawn her offspring.
  • In Transformers: Age of Extinction, the extinction of the Dinosaurs was caused by terraforming performed by the creators of the Transformers who tried to turn the earth into Transformium.
  • In Pacific Rim there's a deliberately-ambiguous statement that the dinosaurs were either killed off by Kaiju, or were the first failed attempt at creating Kaiju.

    Literature 
  • The Astrosaurs series, similar to the Star Trek example, which said that dinosaurs and other prehistoric creatures discovered space travel and left Earth before the meteor struck.
  • 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. Essentially, the tale talks about how the meteor did wipe out 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. It should be noted this is a vampire folk tale, and should be taken with a grain of salt, especially given that some dinosaurs did have strong nesting instincts.
  • 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
  • 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 - 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... Which makes this Hilarious in Hindsight.
  • Played with in Michael Crichton's The Lost World 1995, 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.
  • In The Science Of Discworld, the Terribly Dull Lizards — like many organisms from other time periods, very nearly including humans — 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 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.
  • The Ryk E. Spoor and Eric Flint 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.
  • The second book of Empire of the Ants reveal Ants were responsible for the extinction of the Dinosaurs.
  • In L. Jagi Lamplighter's Prospero's Daughter, Miranda, commenting on the winds (who work for her), mentions that the extinction was not caused by the meteor hitting. It is only logical that people don't know the truth, though; there is a secret order that censors magic out of history, so that people will resort to science rather than evil spirits to improve their lives.
  • Robert J Sawyer's End Of An Era features time travelers who pop into the end of the Cretaceous to discover that Earth's gravity was purposefully modified by Martians in order to breed biological war machines (aka dinosaurs) against a fifth planet in the Solar System orbiting between Mars and Jupiter. In the end, the scientists cause the KT Extinction Event by turning off the antigravity generators, simultaneously killing off both the dinosaurs and the Martians. Essentially, phlebotinum created the dinosaurs. Taking it away killed them.
  • In Captain Underpants and the Revolting Revenge of the Radioactive Robo-Boxers, Tippy Tinkletrousers not only killed the dinosaurs, but also caused the Ice Age and created the Big Bang.
  • The title dinosaur of Tyrannosaur Canyon claims that while there was indeed a world-ravaging meteorite strike, it was really just a vehicle for an alien bioweapon maybe-intended to allow mammals to take over the planet.
  • David Brin's Existence posits that a war between alien probes that took place millions of years in the past caused an object to fall to Earth and trigger the Cretaceous extinction. Whether it was an actual alien probe, a piece of rock flung by one of the probes at another, done on purpose or by accident, is not known.
  • In the Tunnels series, a Styx Phase killed off the dinosaurs, presumably triggering an environmental collapse that spelled doom for millions of other organisms that also went extinct.

    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 (ensuring that they could plausibly be used to bring the dinosaurs back).
  • Due to each season largely being in its own continuity, Super Sentai has had no less than five possible fates for the dinosaurs. One wonders what happened to them in the universe where the team ups take place...
    • 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, and her main goal after being revived is to destroy those two eggs.
    • Bakuryuu Sentai Abaranger holds it that a meteorite did hit Earth but didn't kill the dinosaurs, instead splitting the Earth into two parallel universes; one where humans evolved and rule the earth and one where dinosaurs did.
    • Engine Sentai Go-onger has the villains reviving the monster who destroyed the dinosaurs.
    • The Big Bad of GoGo Sentai Boukenger's movie also killed the dinosaurs.
    • Zyuden Sentai Kyoryuger has the Deboss Legion exterminate the dinosaurs and try to do the same to humanity, with three recurring monsters having directly killed the dinos: an Ice Age one, a disease-themed one, and a meteor one. They haven't regained their full power yet - the Ice Age monster was even first episode cannon fodder - but they're still usually a step up from a normal Monster of the Week.
  • Baldrick's shorts. (from the short film shown at the Millenium Dome, Blackadder Back and Forth)
  • Star Trek: Voyager suggests one of them evolved, built spaceships and just outright left. The rest? Probably SOL.
    • The Expanded Universe intimates that Q killed the dinosaurs after using a spatial rift to divert an asteroid hurled at him by another omnipotent being. 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.
      • In another novel he claimed that he gave humanity fire as a joke (predictably, the first thing they did was light one another on fire and laugh hysterically). The other Q were angry, as this made humans dominant instead of cockroaches.
  • 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.

    Music 
  • Ayreon: "We vanquished the dinosaurs with the trajectory of a child's lost meteorite."
  • The 1980 vintage song "Die Dinosaurier" by Lonzo (page is in German) plays with the flood myth by having the dinosaurs be simply too big to fit into Noah's ark and therefore not allowed to board.

    Religion and Mythology 
  • The Bible doesn't mention dinosaurs, but Creationists have come up with a number of Fanon theories to try and reconcile the book of Genesis with paleontology:
    • Dinosaurs died from Noah's Flood; 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 and/or the die-off of a food source that didn't survive the flood or climate changes.
    • The seven "days" of creation are actually a metaphor for seven much longer eras, and dinosaurs went extinct somewhere in that timeframe.
    • When the Earth was cursed due to the Fall of Man, dinosaurs were corrupted and made Always Chaotic Evil. (This doesn't explain where they went, though...)
    • Dinosaurs never existed and their remains were placed by either God or Satan to test the faith of the less committed Christians.

    Tabletop Games 
  • In d20 Modern's Darkļæ½Matter 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 its pull, and the crew members have discovered, to their great dismay, that while they were gone... all kinds of things happened to their planet.
  • Nobilis features a vignette where a representative of Heaven, an aspect of perfection and purity, descends onto Earth for the first time... and then a dinosaur craps on him. So they have to go. This is par for the course in Nobilis.
  • Implied by some of the background fluff in Warhammer 40,000. The Necron/Old One conflict known as The War In Heaven occurred around the time the dinosaurs died out and the Necrons/C'Tan are known to have come to Earth in the distant past.

    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 crater and is about 65 million years old. No way that's a coincidence.
    • Technically it is a coincidence, but only in-universe. The Brethren Moons fire off their Markers randomly with the intent of seeding life forms, not wiping them out. Humans didn't discover it until the year 2214.
  • 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...
  • Inverted in Fossil Fighters, where it's revealed Dinosaurs were actually alien prehistoric creatures introduced on Earth by the Dinaurian, an specie ascended from them, in an attempt to recreated their dangerously close to extinction species on Earth. The Dinosaurs' extinction foiled their plan, and they awoke too late to rectify it.
  • In Pathways Into Darkness, the dinosaur-killing asteroid strike was the work of an Eldritch Abomination that is about to wake up.
  • The Day The World Broke: Osgood Jr., better known as Ozzie, a technician at the World Works, is responsible for the dinosaurs' disappearance. He accidentally started a cataclysm that killed some of them, and judged the best way to stop it was to throw the vents into reverse. In the process most of the remaining dinos, and some other Cretaceous critters, were sucked through into the core. Metals in the core wound up in their digestive systems, turning this first generation's hatchlings into biomechanical Mechanimals, who inhabit the core to this day.

    Webcomics 

    Web Original 

    Western Animation 
  • One episode of The Emperor's New School has Yzma combine a time machine, invisibility device and an evil MP3 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.
  • Futurama, Fry encounters a giant brain that knows everything. The result is the page-quote above.
  • In The Fairly Oddparents, Wanda claims to have wiped out the dinosaurs the last time she "went bad." But she didn't — it was Sylvester Calzone doing a species-wide No-Holds-Barred Beatdown.
    Calzone: Uh, you're da species, and I'm da extinction!!
  • In the two-part Bionic Six episode "Back to the Past", the protagonists are sent back to find out what killed the dinosaurs. Naturally, they end up getting involved with it.
  • Family Guy's answer: I don't know, but they died because you touch yourself at night.
  • American Dad!: "That's just preposterous, dinosaurs going extinct. They were just forced underground during the last human-dinosaur wars and we occasionally find their bones sometimes".
    • Another episode has Stan die and force his way into Heaven, where he finds God playing with some toy dinosaurs in His office.
      God: These guys are awesome. Why'd I ever send them to Mars?
  • In Jonny Quest: The Real Adventures, the dinosaurs were wiped out by an incredibly powerful time traveling nuke.
  • There was a Ren and Stimpy episode where Wilbur Cobb told the titular characters several ridiculous theories on how the dinosaurs died, including "they thought they were Superman, and jumped off the roof." As he's dragged off by museum security, he claims that he was the one who killed the dinosaurs.
  • In a time travel-themed episode of I Am Weasel, the dinosaurs laughed at I. R. Baboon's red butt so hard that they fell off the world (which was flat at that time period for some odd reason) and to their deaths. Weasel calls him out at first, but then realizes that dinosaurs are supposed to go extinct and instead takes this as a sign that Baboon was destined to correct history.
  • In one of the "Terrible Thunder Lizards" segments in Eek! The Cat, the dinosaurs became extinct because of giant robot clown the dinosaurs unleashed.
  • In Extreme Dinosaurs, the catacysm that caused the dinosaurs to go extinct was caused by Bad Rap, a mutated raptor, using an alien Wave Motion Gun in a fight. Since the weapon was conceived by aliens from a different dimension, it wasn't adapted to be used on Earth, and ended up causing the cataclysm instead of merely killing the protagonists like initially intended.

    Real Life 
  • While it's pretty certain that there was an asteroid impact that occurred right around the Cretaceous-Paleogene 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, which are quite extinct.

Phlebotinum Induced StupidityApplied PhlebotinumPhlebotinum Muncher
Lost WorldTropesaurus IndexPrehistoria
Phlebotinum Induced StupiditySpeculative Fiction TropesPick Your Human Half
Out with a BangImageSource/Western AnimationPuppeteer Parasite

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