When the asteroid that hit today's Yucatan Peninsula in Mexico reached Earth, it made life incredibly difficult for almost any living thing. Its far-reaching effects have dramatically impacted plant life and destabilized the food chain so that many species could not recover from it. With all this, life near the crater would be expected to be fairly close to zero, but new research indicates that the impact site itself was almost immediately microorganized.
In the new work that published this week in Nature scientists headed by the University of Texas at Austin discovered that the massive crater was just another habitat for life within a few years when the asteroid arrived.
"We Found Life Inside the Crater A few years of impact, which is really fast and surprisingly fast," explains Chris Lowery of the Institute of Geophysics at the University of Texas and lead author of the study. "It shows that there is generally no great predictability of recovery."
The discovery was made thanks to a drilling expedition conducted by scientists investigating the crater of the remaining asteroid. Like a chronology of events, the layers of rock show activity at the impact point in the many years after the arrival of the asteroid. In this rock, researchers discovered tiny microfossils of organisms that called the crater house almost immediately after its formation.
"Microfossils leave you with a complete picture of what's going on," explains Lowery. "You get a piece of rock and there are thousands of microfossils there so we can look at changes in the population with a very high degree of confidence … and we can use that as a kind of proxy for the larger scale organisms." [1
incredible preservation of the seabed in the crater, which allowed the researchers to provide a detailed timeline.
"In this core one can see layers, while in others" they are generally mixed, which means that the records of fossils and materials are full and one can not resolve tiny time intervals, "explains Timothy Bralower of Pennsylvania State University, co-author of the work, "We have a fossil record here where we can resolve daily, weekly, monthly, and yearly changes."