About 66 million years ago at the end of the cretaceous period, the planet lost its dinosaurs. Everyone knows that this happened because of a global catastrophe or asteroid hit. But what happened immediately after the mass extinction?? I decided to go back in time for a while and see for myself and it turns out that everything was completely different than we’re used to thinking.
Today, we’re going to visit a planet that humans haven’t yet set foot on. A planet that was almost destroyed by a meteor strike. You’ll find out which of the ancient inhabitants of the earth died immediately. You’ll see who managed to survive. And, you’ll learn what climate changes they had to face and how the earth was recovering from a monstrous disaster.
At the end of the Mesozoic era, a huge asteroid or comet crashed into the earth. Scientists are still arguing about this. The diameter of this celestial body was anywhere from 11 to 80 odd kilometers or from 7 to 50 miles. That is, on average it might have been the size of the city of Washington DC. When one edge of the asteroid had already hit the ground, the other end was still higher than the flight zone of the Boeing 747. Such a collision couldn’t pass without a trace. The asteroid left behind a giant crater. It covered half of the gulf of mexico and no wonder the crater has a diameter of 150 kilometers or 93 miles and a depth of about 20 kilometers or 12 miles.
This wasn’t the first collision between our planet and a celestial body but it has become one of the largest the world changed in an instant. The impact caused mega-tsunamis with a height of more than 100 meters or 330 feet that reached the territory of modern-day Texas and Florida. Other sources indicate a height of 300 meters or 985 feet that’s for example the height of the Eiffel tower. And some claim that the first wave rose up to 1.5 kilometers or 0.9 miles tall which is equal to five Eiffel towers. The asteroid displaced so much water from the ocean that huge waves crashed on the coastline for 10 hours. And this isn’t even the worst-case scenario.
If the impact had been deeper the tsunamis would have been even taller. The explosion that occurred when the celestial body fell was about a hundred million times more powerful than the famous thermonuclear Tsar bomba. Forests within thousands of kilometers or hundreds of miles were destroyed in just a second. Some scientists believe the explosion was equivalent to a hundred trillion tons of TNT. It was enough to destroy the coastline. It caused 12 point earthquakes and landslides all the way to Argentina. And these, in turn, caused new tsunamis. A real chain of horror and it was impossible to survive if you found yourself in its path. But this was only the beginning of the disaster.
Life on Earth
The energy with which the asteroid crashed into the earth was enough to set fire to the landscape within a radius of 1500 kilometers or 930 miles. Even huge dinosaurs like diplodocus died. Those that weren’t hit by the explosion or fire were dragged away by the retreating wave. Tiny particles of rock and other fragments were thrown high into the atmosphere. Later geologists have found these fragments all over the world because after being blown into the air, about 40 minutes later the particles began to fall. Rapidly, they were like drops of hot glass their kinetic energy was equivalent to 20 million megatons of TNT. And all of it was converted into heat. Each falling particle turned into an incandescent lamp. Together, they quickly warmed up the atmosphere and the earth became a real hell.
The vast majority of dinosaurs and many other terrestrial organisms were in the affected area. After avoiding a tsunami or earthquake they likely died after a few hours from intense heat. The planet previously covered with forests almost instantly caught fire. About 75% of living things were destroyed including any mammal weighing more than 25 kilograms or 55 pounds. Acid rain oxidized the oceans. Half of the plant species also died immediately or within a few hours. From the fires combined with dust from the impact blocked the sun’s rays. The earth was deprived of sunlight for about a year. This greatly affected the climate.
In the end, some of the plants that managed to survive the impact also died after these large herbivores miraculously survived. Then carnivores water ecosystems were also destroyed but not completely. For example, turtles and the ancestors of crocodiles managed to survive. Some researchers called the environment of that time lunar desolate and barren as it was. It was almost impossible to survive in such conditions. Yet, life on our planet didn’t stop. As I said, all of the big animals died. But, those who remained began to repopulate the land. The foraminifera was the first to recover. These are single-celled organisms that appear in the crater a few years after the impact. Then the ferns awoke. In just a millennium, they were able to expand and occupy almost all of the space that was left.
But large mammals faced different conditions. There wasn’t enough food. Therefore, only small animals weighing no more than 600 grams or one 1.3 pounds roamed. Among the ferns, there were just a few flowering plants and nutritious seeds in the world.
After a hundred thousand years mammals returned to the size of a raccoon. The ferns were replaced by palm forests. There was more food. The world was gradually returning to normal. 200,000 years later, the so-called palm period was replaced by the period of pecan pie. Of course, no pies were prepared then. But, there were not like plants. This means that there was much more nutritious food. Mammals took advantage of this. The diversity of species increased by about three times.
The largest individuals reached 25 kilograms or 55 pounds. This is the weight of a fairly large beaver or gazelle. It seems that mammals evolved along with plants. Finally, about 700,000 years later, there were beans and this is much more important than it seems. At first glance, beans worked as protein bars for ancient mammals. They further increased the size of the animals and at the same time, the diversity of species. At this stage, the future rulers of the planet weighed more than 50 kilograms or 110 pounds. This is about the weight of a large modern cheetah. The ancient mammals were a hundred times heavier than their ancestors who lived among the ferns. And, less than a million years had passed. Yes, for a human or any other creature, that’s a very long time.
But for evolution, it’s nothing. The oceans recovered much more slowly. Scientists estimate that it took them about 3 million years. Only then did the flow of organic material return to normal. New species took over the vacant ecological niches. Paleontologists consider birds to be one of the few surviving dinosaurs. Their non-avian relatives died out but a small portion of lizards still adapted. Most likely, their ability to dive swim or seek shelter in water, in swamps helped them.
Flow of Mother Nature
Many bird species can build nests on the ground. All of this helped their ancestors cope with the horror that was happening around them. Them as a result, life on earth returned to normal. Over time, evolution led to the appearance of humans.
This wouldn’t have happened without the asteroid hitting the earth. We can say it was a trigger for human evolution. But what would happen if such a disaster struck again?? Well, you already have a rough idea. Surely, most of humanity wouldn’t survive a new attack from space. But, our planet would certainly recover. Life goes on despite the fact that we’re talking about events that occurred tens of millions of years ago. Today, scientists know quite a lot about them. This was made possible by fossils as well as various samples of earth and stones. For example, from the bones of ancient mammals and lizards scientists have learned when the age of dinosaurs ended. It took a long time to figure this out.