Tech UPTechnologyLife quickly recovered after the meteorite that wiped out...

Life quickly recovered after the meteorite that wiped out the dinosaurs

66 million years ago a huge asteroid impacted the Yucatan peninsula (Mexico) and caused the disappearance of more than 70% of the species that lived on our planet. It was not the most dramatic, but this Cretaceous-Paleogene mass extinction is the most famous of all, since it caused the disappearance of the dinosaurs.

This fact would determine the subsequent natural history of the Earth: with the extinction of the so-called “kings of the Cretaceous” a multitude of ecological niches would be released that would occupy other species. For example, a study published in Nature Ecology & Evolution revealed that, after the annihilation of the dinosaurs, small mammals that until then were nocturnal began to be active during the day , a milestone that marked the evolution of this group of animals to which the human species belongs.

Surely many scientists would love to be able to peek through a peephole at that moment and observe live everything that happened on the planet after the impact of the asteroid. Unfortunately, we cannot visit the past, but the analysis of the crater sediments offers us a kind of time travel and can give us clues about what happened at that time. The latest findings in this regard have just been published in the journal Nature , and they reveal that, in the same area where the meteorite struck, life recovered at an astonishing speed.

A catastrophe of great magnitude

We are going to put ourselves in a situation: we are talking about a blow whose violence is equated to that of no less than a billion atomic bombs, which produced tsunamis between 100 and 300 meters high, earthquakes with a magnitude greater than 11 on the Richter scale , acid rain, temperature rise and fires at distances of up to 4,000 kilometers from the crater. A real catastrophe.

However, the team of scientists who participated in this study reveals that, in the same Chicxulub crater, originated in the place of impact of the asteroid and with a diameter of 180 kilometers, life reappeared very few years later, and also the Highly productive marine ecosystem recovered in the first 30,000 years, a comparatively short geological time. Other studies had already registered rapid recoveries in areas far from “ground zero”, such as Spain, southern France or Tunisia, but this is the first evidence of this fact in the impact area itself, where the change in environmental conditions it was obviously much older.

The authors of the study are members of Expedition 364 of the International Ocean Discovery Program (IODP) “Chicxulub: drilling the K-Pg impact crater” and have carried out their analyzes, which combine geochemical data with paleontological data, in cores obtained after drilling the crater.

“This recovery is even faster than in other areas further away from the impact, and is a consequence of the important connection of the impact zone with open waters, which allows the rapid reestablishment of favorable conditions for the development of life”, explained Francisco Javier Rodríguez-Tovar, a researcher at the University of Granada and one of the participants in the work. The discovery of fossil traces in the first sediments deposited after the impact has confirmed the rapid recovery of the organisms that live on the seabed.

During the first days of June, the members of Expedition 364, including Dr. Rodríguez-Tovar, will meet again in Mérida (Mexico) to visit the outcrops of the K-Pg limit associated with the crater and address the next lines of research.

Reference: Lowery et al. 2018. Rapid recovery of life at ground zero of the end-Cretaceous mass extinction. Nature doi: 10.1038 / s41586-018-0163-6

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