UTIG-Led Group of Scientists Have Received a $1.4 Million to Study the Causes of the End Cretaceous Mass Extinction
The impact of an asteroid 66.0 million years ago on what is now the Yucatán Peninsula of Mexico caused the extinction of 75% of life on Earth, including non-avian dinosaurs, marine reptiles like mosasaurs and plesiosaurs, and ammonites. While scientists generally agree that the asteroid that formed the Chicxulub Crater is responsible for the extinction, questions remain about exactly how it caused all these groups of organisms to go extinct. Did soot and dust block out the sun and end photosynthesis for a few years? Did this also create massive cooling and climate change? Were there extensive wildfires? Toxic metals strewn across the earth? Acid rain? All of these have been proposed as so-called kill mechanisms, but questions remain about the potential extent of each.
A diverse group of scientists, led by UTIG’s Sean Gulick, received $1.4 million from National Science Foundation (NSF) to study cores collected from the Chicxulub Impact Crater on Mexico’s Yucatán Peninsula to understand exactly how the asteroid impact caused so many organisms to go extinct. Gulick is joined by Gail Christeson, Chris Lowery, and Cornelia Rasmussen from UTIG, Danny Stockli from the Department of Geosciences, and researchers from Arizona State, University of Alaska Fairbanks, University of Norte Dame, Penn State, Rutgers, and the Lunar and Planetary Science Institute.
Expedition 364 of the International Ocean Discovery Program, on which Gulick was co-chief scientist, drilled into the peak ring of the Chicxulub impact crater in the spring of 2016. The Chicxulub Crater is one of the largest impact craters on Earth, the only one with an unequivocal peak ring, and the only one linked to a mass extinction. These are the first cores from the peak ring of the Chicxulub Crater. They provide an unprecedented opportunity to study how the Chicxulub impact effected global climate.
The scientists funded by this grant have a diverse skillset and are investigating different aspects of the crater to contribute to the larger goal. Members of the group are working together to reconstruct the thermal history of the peak ring; quantify the amount of the target rock that was vaporized by the impact and put into the atmosphere; identify possible toxic metals within the crater; and describe the fossil organisms that colonized the crater after the impact to understand how life recovered.
Goff, J. A., S. P. S. Gulick, L. P. Cruz, H. A. Stewart, M. B. Davis, D. Duncan, S. Saustrup, J. C. Sanford, and J. U. Fucugauchi, Solution pans and linear sand bedforms on the bare-rock limestone shelf of the Campeche Bank, Yucatan Peninsula, Mexico, Continental Shelf Res., 117, 57-66, 2016, doi:10.1016/j.csr.2016.02.005, #2948
Morgan, J. V., S. P. S. Gulick, T. J. Bralower, E. Chenot, G. L. Christeson, P. Claeys, C. S. Cockell, G. S. Collins, M. Coolen., C. Ferriere, C. Gebhardt, K. Goto, H. Jones, D. A. Kring, E. Le Ber, E. Lofi, X. Long, C. M. Lowery, C. Mellet, R. Ocampo-Torres, G. R. Oskinsi, L. Perez-Cruz, A. Pickersgill, M. Polchau, A. Rae, C. Rasmussen, M. Rebolledo-Vieyra, U. Riller, H. Sato, D. Schmidt, J. Smit, S. Tikoo-Schantz, N. Tomioka, J. Urrutia-Fucugauchi, M. T. Whalen, A. Wittmann, K. Yamaguchi, and W. Zylberman, The formation of peak rings in large impact craters, Science, 354, 878-882, 2016, doi:10.1126/science.aah6561, #3018
Sanford, J. C., J. W. Snedden, and S. P. S. Gulick, The Cretaceous-Paleogene boundary deposit in the Gulf of Mexico: Large-scale oceanic basin response to the Chicxulub impact, J. Geophys. Res. Solid Earth, 121, 1240-1261, 2016, doi:10.1002/2015JB012615, #2929
In the News
Why these researchers think dinosaurs were minutes away from surviving extinction – Washington Post, May 2017
Drilling to Doomsday – Discover Magazine, May 2017
When the Asteroid Hit, Dinosaurs Went Extinct – But Other Life Bounced Back Relatively Quickly – Texas Standard, April 2017
After Dino-Killing Asteroid Impact, Life Re-Emerged Quickly – Space, March 2017
Nickel clue to ‘dinosaur killer’ asteroid – BBC, December 2016
Drilling Into the Chicxulub Crater, Ground Zero of the Dinosaur Extinction – New York Times, November 2016
Asteroid strike made ‘instant Himalayas’ – BBC, November 2016
Rock core from dinosaur-killing impact reveals how enormous craters form – Nature, November 2016
Chicxulub ‘dinosaur crater’ investigation begins in earnest – BBC, October 2016
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