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Could large asteroid hits create niches for early life?

Split drill cores from asteroid hit crater/ E. Le Ber


Scientists studying the Chicxulub crater have shown how large asteroid impacts deform rocks in a way that may produce habitats for early life.

Around 65 million years ago a massive asteroid crashed into the Gulf of Mexico causing an impact so huge that the blast and subsequent knock-on effects wiped out around 75 per cent of all life on Earth, including most of the dinosaurs.

Porous rocks provide niches for simple organisms to take hold, and there would also be nutrients available in the pores, from circulating water that would have been heated inside the Earth’s crust. Early Earth was constantly bombarded by asteroids, and the team have inferred that this bombardment must have also created other rocks with similar physical properties. This may partly explain how life took hold on Earth. Paper. (paywall) – Joanna V. Morgan, The formation of peak rings in large impact craters. Science, 2016 DOI: 10.1126/science.aah6561 More.

The obvious problem is that the impact would likely wipe out the life that was already there. This idea would only work if the life was introduced later or brought by the asteroid itself. Hmmm.

See also: Origin of life: Murchison meteorite lobbed from asteroid “chemical factory”

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