Algae survived dino-killing mass extinction event 65 million years ago

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Washington, October 3 (ANI): In a new research, a team of scientists has found out that at least some forms of microscopic marine life like algae survived the mass extinction event caused by an asteroid impact 65 million years ago that probably killed off the dinosaurs and much of the world's living organisms.

The research was done using the help of a model created by MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology) researchers and their collaborators.

They found that at least some forms of microscopic marine life - the so-called "primary producers," or photosynthetic organisms such as algae and cyanobacteria in the ocean - recovered within about a century after the mass extinction.

Previous research had indicated the process might have taken millions of years.

It has taken so long to uncover the quick recovery because previous studies looked mostly at fossils in the layers of sediment from that period, and apparently the initial recovery was dominated by tiny, soft-bodied organisms such as cyanobacteria, which do not have shells or other hard body parts that leave fossil traces.

The new research looked instead for "chemical fossils" - traces of organic molecules (compounds composed of mostly carbon and hydrogen) that can reveal the presence of specific types of organisms, even though all other parts of the organisms themselves are long gone.

The team had two major advantages that helped to make the new findings possible.

One was a section of the well-known cliff face at Stevns Klint, Denmark, that happens to have an unusually thick layer of sediment from the period of the mass extinction.

Secondly, team members tapped one of the most powerful Gas Chromatograph-Mass Spectrometers (GC-MS) in the world, a device that can measure minute quantities of different molecules in the rock.

The analysis clarified the sequence of events after the big impact.

Immediately after the impact, certain areas of the ocean were devoid of oxygen and hostile to most algae, but close to the continent, microbial life was inhibited for only a relatively short period: in probably less than 100 years, algal productivity showed the first signs of recovery.

The findings provide observational evidence supporting models suggesting that global darkness after the impact was rather short.

"Primary productivity came back quickly, at least in the environment we were studying," said Summons, referring to the near-shore environment represented by the Danish sediments.

"The atmosphere must have cleared up rapidly," he said. "People will have to rethink the recovery of the ecosystems.

It can't be just the lack of food supply that made it take so long to recover," he added. (ANI)

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