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Asteroid That Wiped Out Dinosaurs Didn’t Have Disastrous Impact on Deep-Sea Life; Here's Why

First Posted: Apr 20, 2016 04:10 AM EDT
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Deep-sea organisms were able to survive the massive extinction brought in the wake of an asteroid collision on Earth 65 million years ago that annihilated dinosaurs and destroyed significant amount of terrestrial, marine and microscopic marine organisms.

According to a new study, deep-sea life was able to live because food was constantly being delivered into the deepest pits of the sea, enabling the survival of the species inhabiting the area.

As per earlier studies it was understood that the biological mode that transferred organic matter to the deep ends of the sea was thoroughly destroyed due to a rapid disintegration in surface-to-deep-sea carbon isotope gradients. A new research conducted by a team of Cardiff University scientists challenged the view because deep-sea benthic organisms that depended on surface-derived food had continued to survive after the collision. According to the scientists, some algae and bacteria managed to survive the annihilating effects of the asteroid collision, and they kept on moving further down towards the ocean floor. Incidentally, it is believed that the asteroid hit Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula.

"Our results show that despite a wave of massive and virtually instantaneous extinctions among the plankton, some types of photosynthesizing organisms, such as algae and bacteria, were living in the aftermath of the asteroid strike," said Heather Birch, researcher Cardiff University. "This provided a slow trickle of food for organisms living near the ocean floor which allowed them to survive the mass extinction, answering one of the outstanding questions that still remained regarding this period of history"

According to a report published by Cardiff University, the continuous descent enabled the deep-sea creatures to live through the catastrophic period. The observation by the scientists was backed by their in-depth study of seafloor organisms and fossilized shells from the sea surface found in the Southeast Atlantic region.

The team from Cardiff University came to the conclusion that the biological pump became feeble due to the marine extinctions, but it was less damaging and for a shorter period than what has been suggested before. Food was reaching the organisms inhabiting the area near the seabed, allowing them to flourish and spread out. However, it took nearly two million years before the deep-sea food supply chain could be completely restored and result in the further evolution of new species to occupy the ecological vacancies left behind by extinct forms.

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