Researchers from the University of Curtin, studying microorganisms that live in the rocks deep under the impact of the asteroid that destroyed the dinosaurs, made an amazing find. It turned out that the ancient collision continues to influence the type of microbial life found here today.
The researchers used gene sequencing, cell counting and incubation experiments to study microbial communities at the site of the meteorite. Scientists have found that geological deformation caused by the impact 66 million years ago is still shaping life beneath the site in Chicxuluba, Mexico.
Although asteroid collisions have caused serious disruption to terrestrial organisms and ecosystems, the resulting crater could be an ideal breeding ground for new life, the study authors note.
The heat and pressure from the impact created a sterile zone that caused the bacteria to disappear locally. However, after about a million years, the crater cooled to a temperature low enough for microbial life to return and evolve in isolation from life on the Earth’s surface over the past 65 million years.
As part of the study, scientists found bacteria in nutrient-poor and still relatively hot (around 70°C) granite rocks with impact cracks in the lower layers. The authors of the work note that life is similar to the usual microbial found in marine sediments, but still very different.
Since the deep microbial biosphere plays an important role in the global carbon cycle, it is interesting to explore how microbial communities were able to recover from this catastrophic geological event, the scientists conclude.