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



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.

Supported content

  1. Geology 48, 328−332 (2020). doi: 10.1130/G46799.1
Institutions Share
Western Australian Organic and Isotope Geochemistry Centre (WA-OIGC), Curtin University, Australia 0.21
Department of Geosciences, Penn State, United States of America (USA) 0.18
MIT Department of Earth, Atmospheric and Planetary Sciences (EAPS), United States of America (USA) 0.12
Institute for Geophysics (IG), UT Austin, United States of America (USA) 0.12
Department of Organic Geochemistry, IFG CAU, Germany 0.09
School of Physics and Astronomy, The University of Edinburgh, United Kingdom (UK) 0.06
Department of Earth Science and Engineering, ICL, United Kingdom (UK) 0.06
Department of Geosciences, UAF, United States of America (USA) 0.06
Department of Palaeobiology, Swedish Museum of Natural History, Sweden 0.06
Department of Marine Geology, IOW, Germany 0.02
Institute for Geography and Geology, University of Greifswald, Germany 0.02
Interdisciplinary Faculty (INF), University of Rostock, Germany 0.02