Microbial life in the nascent Chicxulub crater

Journal: Geology

Published: 2020-04-01

DOI: 10.1130/g46799.1

Affiliations: 12

Authors: 17

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Research Highlight

Microbes defied deadly asteroid

© MARK GARLICK/SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY

© MARK GARLICK/SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY

Microbes made themselves at home in the Chicxulub crater mere days after the asteroid impact that wiped out three quarters of life on Earth.

The asteroid infamously associated with the demise of the dinosaurs struck Mexico 66 million years ago, creating a dust cloud so thick that plants couldn’t grow for several years. Microbial life, however, made a surprisingly rapid return.

A team led by researchers from Curtin University in Australia used organic carbon ratios from a sediment core taken from the middle of the crater to study how microbial communities evolved after the impact. They identified biomarkers of cyanobacteria, which were washed into the crater by a tsunami triggered by the impact. The bacteria survived there even before sunlight levels returned to normal, thanks to nutrients from the surrounding earth.

These findings reveal how nutrient and oxygen supplies can shape the recovery of microbial life in such challenging environments.

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  1. Geology 48, 328−332 (2020). doi: 10.1130/G46799.1
Institutions Share
Curtin University, Australia 0.21
The Pennsylvania State University (Penn State), United States of America (USA) 0.18
Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), United States of America (USA) 0.12
The University of Texas at Austin (UT Austin), United States of America (USA) 0.12
University of Kiel (CAU), Germany 0.09
The University of Edinburgh, United Kingdom (UK) 0.06
Imperial College London (ICL), United Kingdom (UK) 0.06
University of Alaska Fairbanks (UAF), United States of America (USA) 0.06
Swedish Museum of Natural History, Sweden 0.06
Leibniz Institute for Baltic Sea Research (IOW), Germany 0.02
University of Greifswald, Germany 0.02
University of Rostock, Germany 0.02

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