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Marine Life in Low Countries Survived Catastrophic Meteorite Impact 66 Million Years Ago

Aporrhais limburgensis
04/12/2019
Marine Life in Low Countries Survived Catastrophic Meteorite Impact 66 Million Years Ago
post by
Siska Van Parys

Belgian and Dutch palaeontologists have discovered that the marine life in our regions recovered exceptionally quickly after the meteorite impact that heralded the end of the dinosaurs.
The impact of a meteorite of up to 10 kilometres in diameter on the Mexican peninsula of Yucatan 66 million years ago caused worldwide environmental disasters with tsunamis, years of obscuration of sunlight, acid rain and sudden changes in the climate. The result: one of the biggest biodiversity crises ever. Three quarters of the animal kingdom and half of all plant species were wiped off the map.

However, the consequences of the meteorite impact were not equally dramatic everywhere. A new study by Belgian and Dutch palaeontologists from KU Leuven, The Royal Belgian Institute of Natural Sciences and the Natural History Museum Maastricht shows that life in the subtropical sea that covered Limburg survived the environmental disasters very well.

The former Curfs-Ankerpoort limestone quarry, 5 kilometres east of Maastricht, is one of the few places in the world where one can study the direct effects of the meteorite impact on the marine fauna in detail. The team collected some 1,400 fossils of gastropods and bivalves in limestone layers that date from just before and just after the meteorite impact. 'We found that the diversity of the gastropods from the two periods is very similar, as if these animals had hardly suffered from the environmental disasters', says Johan Vellekoop of the KU Leuven. The Limburg marine fauna was probably already able to survive with in general smaller supplies of food during the Cretaceous. When the meteorite set in motion a chain reaction of environmental disasters, a large part of the local fauna survived this difficult period, after which the ecosystem here recovered relatively quickly,' says Vellekoop.

The new research shows that the local consequences of global environmental disasters depend very much on the conditions in place prior to the disaster. Life in the Limburg Cretaceous Sea proved exceptionally resilient', concludes Vellekoop.

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