Asteroid that killed the dinosaurs also wiped out ocean species by triggering acid rain

Scientists claim the asteroid which caused the Chicxulub crater in the Gulf of Mexico, also devastated ocean populations

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The Independent Online

The giant asteroid believed to have wiped out the dinosaurs also devastated the ocean by causing rainfall on an enormous scale, scientists claim.

The event known as the Cretaceous-Tertiary extinction which saw 80 per cent of life on earth killed off, has been blamed on the asteroid which created the Chicxulub crater in the Gulf of Mexico 65.5million years ago.

However, researchers have developed this theory by claiming that the mass extinction of sea creatures in the upper ocean, as well as swimmers and drifters in lakes and rivers, can be explained by the sulphuric properties of the asteroid, Live Science reported.

The team that worked on the study published in the ‘Natural Geoscience’ journal claim that the impact of the asteroid would have filled the earth’s atmosphere with sulphur trioxide as it caused sulphate minerals called anhydrites to vapourise.

The subsequent gas cloud would have caused a mass amount of sulphuric acid rain to fall in just a few days, making the surface of the ocean too acid for upper ocean creatures to live.

Scientists believe their theory also explains the massive increase in fossilised fern pollen following the asteroid’s impact, as ferns are one of the few plants that tolerate ground saturated in acidic water.

“Concentrated sulphuric acid rains and intense ocean acidification by SO3-rich impact vapours resulted in severe damage to the global ecosystem and were probably responsible for the extinction of many species,” the study reads.

To make their findings, the team led by Sohsuke Ohno of the Planetary Exploration Research Centre in Chiba recreated a scaled down version of the moment the asteroid hit earth.

Using a piece of foil made of the heavy metal tantalum to represent the mass of the asteroid, and a rock similar to the surface of the earth where the asteroid hit, the scientists analysed the gas released in the impact, and discovered it was mainly sulphur trioxide.

Previous studies have show that the Chicxulub asteroid which caused the 10 kilometres ditch in the Yucutan peninsula, Mexico, also caused catastrophic tsunamis and a worldwide firestorm.