Dinosaurs faced their demise more than 66 million years ago when a massive asteroid struck Earth. While the conditions encountered on land were hostile to many animals, microbes found in the oceans thrived.
A new study conducted by a team of researchers who analyzed rock crystals has revealed that algae bloomed after the impact as photosynthetic bacteria enjoyed a favorable environment and provided a rich source of food for marine creatures after the cataclysm altered the climate and environmental conditions of the planet.
Uncovering ancient stones
Drilling operations, which took place in 2016, allowed scientists to explore the Chicxulub crater, where the lethal asteroid crashed. Sediments that formed after the impact contained a significant amount of micrite, a calcium carbonate mineral that is encountered in limestone. Corals and plankton rely on the mineral to produce skeletons, while microbes contribute to its formation.
A similar pattern was observed in rocks that were collected in 2001 from a site in the Western area of the Pacific Ocean. Rocks collected from this site also featured a high amount of micrite after the asteroid impact.
After relevant samples were collected, the team employed high-power electron samples to learn more about the way in which micrite formed. Most of the crystal samples were composed of smaller microcrystals, a trait that was missed during the previous analysis. The microcrystals share many traits with the calcium carbonate generated by contemporary bacteria, and the researchers determined that most of the micrite has a biological origin.
It is thought that the micrite was created by a high-resistance microbial community that surfaced after the impact took place. Marine life was affected by the impact as acid rains fell from the sky, killing more than 90% of all the phytoplankton found in oceans and seas. However, there is still much to learn about those times.
The new information has been published as a scientific journal.