Environment Asteroid crater rocks to shed light on beginnings of life

Asteroid crater rocks to shed light on beginnings of life

Sixty-six million years ago, a giant asteroid slammed into earth causing the extinction of 75 per cent of all species on earth.

That’s 75 per cent of all life – dinosaurs, birds, lizards and plants – all wiped off the face of the planet.

How did life ever recover from such a devastating event?

Researchers from Curtin University will be among those studying core samples from the Chicxulub Impact Crater to find out.

In April and May this year, a joint expedition, organised by the International Ocean Discovery Program (IODP) and International Continental Scientific Drilling Program (ICDP), recovered rock cores from the crater offshore from Yucatán in Mexico.

The samples were taken from 506 to 1335 metres below the modern-day sea floor.

Curtin University WA-Organic and Isotope Geochemistry researchers from the Department of Chemistry and The Institute for Geoscience Research (TIGeR) are part of the international team that will analyse samples from the crater, from a time when dinosaurs and marine reptiles dominated the world.

John Curtin Distinguished Professor Kliti Grice will analyse sedimentary organic molecules in the samples.

“Initial results suggest that microbial life established itself in the Crater, likely by taking advantage of the chemistry and porous nature of the broken and melted rocks,” Professor Grice said.

“By analysing the sediments that buried the Crater, we will also be able to investigate how marine life recovered from the period after the impact in which the ocean conditions may have been toxic.”

The scientific ocean drilling carried out by the IODP is the world’s largest scientific geoscience program, involving teams from 25 countries.

You can read more about the IODP project here. Story credit: Curtin University newsroom.

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