Researchers have revealed in a latest study of the Chicxulub impact crater that the same asteroid that killed 75 per cent of life on Earth including the dinosaurs also likely paved way for new life on Earth.
An international team of scientists drilled into the Chicxulub crater off the Yucatán Peninsula in Mexico in April and May earlier this year. In a new briefing recently, the team described some unexpected consequences the impact had on organisms colonizing the subsurface and oceans overlying the crater. Researchers say that the same asteroid could have even laid the foundation for new life.
This is possible because the force with which the asteroid smashed into Earth was so high that the impact brought about changes in the rocks making them less dense and more porous. This increased porosity meant that nutrients and water that were packed inside the lower layer’s of the Earth’s crust were now able to move up paving way for new life on the planet.
Published in journal Science, the new study looks at the “peak ring” – the inner rocky ridges of the impact crater. Researchers point out that with early Earth being constantly bombarded with asteroids of all sizes, there is a possibility that this bombardment must have also created other rocks with similar physical properties. This may partly explain how life took hold on Earth.
According to analysis the asteroid impact that created the Chicxulub crater hit the Earth’s surface with such force that it pushed rocks – at the time about 6 miles beneath the surface – akin to punching a massive hole in the ground. These rocks then moved inward toward the impact zone and then up to the surface before collapsing downward and outward again to form the peak ring. All told, the rocks moved about 18.6 miles in a few minutes.
Researchers say that it is surprising that they have found clues that point at the asteroid’s capability of both wiping out life and laying groundwork for future life at the same time.
“It’s incredible that a biosphere may be produced in that environment as well”, said Sonia Tikoo, an assistant professor in the Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences in the School of Arts and Sciences at Rutgers’ University.