Life recovered quickly near the impact site after the Earth was struck by an asteroid, wiping out the dinosaurs, according to a new study. The asteroid strike, which occurred 66 million years ago, wiped out three-quarters of the life on Earth. However, new research shows plankton and other microbial life began to flourish at the site of the collision just a few years after the catastrophic event. Within 30,000 years, the site around the impact crater, off the east coast of Mexico, was once again teeming with life.
Researchers previously believed that regions closest to such impact zones would recover far more slowly than areas further away, due to the level of contaminants kicked up by such a strike.
“We found life in the crater within a few years of impact, which is really fast, surprisingly fast. It shows that there’s not a lot of predictability of recovery in general,” said Chris Lowery, from the University of Texas Institute for Geophysics (UTIG).
Microfossils, which are tiny fossilised remains of microscopic organisms, were examined in an effort to determine the rate at which life sprung back following the best-known extinction event in Earth’s history. Burrows created by larger beings, including shrimps and worms, provide evidence that animals took advantage of the proliferation of plankton, quickly colonizing the region in search of food.
A thin layer of material from the impact exists over large portions of the world, but the area immediately surrounding the impact zone contains 130 meters, or more than 425 feet, of material from the impact for investigators to study.
“We have a fossil record here where we’re able to resolve daily, weekly, monthly, yearly changes,” said co-author Timothy Bralower, a micropaleontology professor at Pennsylvania State University.
The body which struck the Earth, wiping out the dinosaurs, is thought to have been roughly the size of Mount Everest. Regions of the planet far away from the impact site took up to 300,000 years to recover from the impact of the asteroid.
Researchers believe this study could provide evidence that regions hard-struck by current climate change may recover quickly from environmental damage, although lingering effects may be widespread.