Researchers from Curtin University have taken part in a scientific expedition to retrieve core samples from the Chicxulub meteorite crater in the Gulf of Mexico, uncovering evidence that the asteroid that caused the mass extinction of the dinosaurs also triggered a giant tsunami. The asteroid impact that formed the crater on the Yucatán Peninsula in Mexico, where the research was carried out, is thought to be the cause of the late Cretaceous Period mass extinction event, in which 76 per cent of all plant and animal species in the ancient world, including all non-flying dinosaurs, were killed off. The research team, including ARC Discovery Projects grant recipient, John Curtin Distinguished Professor Kliti Grice from Curtin’s School of Earth and Planetary Sciences, drilled into the crater in order to retrieve rocks from 500 metres to 1300 metres below the seafloor, finding evidence of the events of the days after the asteroid’s impact. Specific molecules from fungi in soil and wildfires helped to track the giant tsunami that was several hundreds of metres high, which flooded the crater in the aftermath of the impact. Further ARC-supported research by the team has revealed that microbial life quickly re-established itself in the crater, leading to ’post-apocalyptic microbial mayhem’ and demonstrating how resilient microorganisms are to hostile environments. GIANT TSUNAMI FOLLOWED DINOSAUR-KILLING ASTEROID
THE RESEARCH HELPS ANSWER THE TANTALISING QUESTION OF EXACTLY WHAT HAPPENED IN THE HOURS, DAYS AND WEEKS FOLLOWING ONE OF THE MOST SIGNIFICANT EVENTS IN EARTH’S HISTORY.
An illustration of the timeline of the asteroid’s impact. Credit: Victor Leshyk.
UNDERSTANDING OUR WORLD THROUGH FUNDAMENTAL RESEARCH
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