Asteroid which killed dinosaurs may have wiped out molluscs too

SOUTHAMPTON scientists believe the asteroid crash thought to have killed the dinosaurs may have also wiped out ancient sea life.

Research by the University of Southampton suggests that molluscs and ammonites could have gone extinct 66 million years ago because the massive crash caused oceans to turn acidic. The researchers believe sea creatures with calcium-carbonate shells could not cope with the changing nature of the oceans and were corroded by the acid. And the team has managed to simulate many of the conditions caused in the immediate aftermath of the impact including acid rain and mass wildfires, which increased carbon dioxide levels. But they cannot be sure and have left other possibilities open.

Prof Toby Tyrrell, of the Ocean and Earth Science at the University of Southampton and co-author of the study, said: “While the consequences of the various impact mechanisms could have made the surface ocean more acidic, our results do not point to enough ocean acidification to cause global extinctions.

“Out of several factors we considered in our model simulation, only one (sulphuric acid) could have made the surface ocean severely corrosive to calcite, but even then the amounts of sulphur required are unfeasibly large.”

He added: “It throws up the question, if it wasn’t ocean acidification what was it? Possible alternative extinction mechanisms, such as intense and prolonged darkness from soot and aerosols injected into the atmosphere, should continue to be investigated.”

The study was carried out in collaboration with the Leibniz Center for Tropical Marine Ecology based in Bremen, Germany.

Joe Curtis, Southern Daily Echo, 12 May 2015. Article.

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