Researcher to discuss how life recovered after ancient asteroid impact

Asher Jones
May 30, 2019

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa — Bacteria may be the key to understanding how life survived after the mass extinction that killed the dinosaurs.

At this month’s Science Brew event on June 1, Tim Bralower, professor of geosciences at Penn State, will discuss his research on how ecosystems recovered after the asteroid that hit Chicxulub 66 million years ago, vastly altering the Earth’s climate and causing the extinction of over 70 percent of species on Earth, including most dinosaurs.

“I am interested in how oceans recover from mass extinctions; why some things survive and some things don’t,” says Bralower. “We recovered a unique core from the crater caused by the asteroid, where we found evidence for the rapid return of life after the impact. This includes bacteria and probably photosynthetic cyanobacteria. It is likely that these bacteria survive in very harsh microenvironments around the world where others couldn’t survive.”

According to Bralower, microscopic fossils from sediment cores extracted from the crater show that microbial communities established immediately after the event. These bacteria would have provided a food source to other organisms, allowing them to survive in an otherwise hostile environment. These bacteria ultimately supported the recovery of higher order life, such as mammals and fish, in the oceans.

The Science Brew event will take place at 2 p.m. on June 1 at Cool Beans Coffee and Tea in Bellefonte.

This family-friendly event is open to all and will include a clay fossil-making activity for children.

Science Brew is presented by the Science Policy Society, a graduate student-run organization that aims to strengthen connections between research and public policy. For more information, visit the Science Policy Society’s website.

(Media Contacts)

Last Updated June 03, 2019