Impact of asteroid 'led to creation of continents'
Steve Connor is the Science Editor of The Independent and i. He has won many awards for his journalism, including five-times winner of the prestigious British science writers’ award; the David Perlman Award of the American Geophysical Union; four times highly commended as specialist journalist of the year in the UK Press Awards; UK health journalist of the year and a special merit award of the European School of Oncology for his investigations into the tobacco industry. He has a degree in zoology from the University of Oxford and has a special interest in genetics and medical science, human evolution and origins, climate change and the environment.
Monday 14 December 1992
They claim they have found a 200-mile-wide undersea crater off the coast of the Falklands created as the huge lump of space rock fell to Earth at a closing speed of some 600,000mph.
Such was the devastation that about 95 per cent of animal species were wiped out. Giant reptiles became extinct, to be replaced eventually by the dinosaurs.
The scenario was greeted with incredulity by scientists attending last week's meeting of the American Geophysical Union in San Francisco, where the case for it was argued by two independent groups of researchers - led by Michael Rampino, professor of earth sciences at New York University, and Verne Oberbeck, a scientist at Nasa's Ames Research Centre in California.
A giant supercontinent covering the Earth at the time eventually split into the northern Laurasia and southern Gondwanaland. Professor Rampino and the Nasa scientists believe fractures caused by the asteroid as it hit the southern tip of what became Gondwanaland determined the future shape of the southern continents.
Shock waves from the impact spread out from the crater causing the triangular shapes of present- day South America, southern Africa, India and western Antarctica, Professor Rampino said. 'If this is what controlled the zones of breaking of the continents, then without the asteriod impact the continents may have broken up along different lines and the Earth would look very different today.'
Continental drift - the theory that the continents are constantly moving as the Earth's 'tectonic plates' slide apart - is the accepted theory of how today's land masses were formed.
The most controversial aspect of the theory is that the asteroid impact caused the mass extinction of animals about 250 million years ago. But Tony Hallam, professor of geology at Birmingham University, is sceptical. 'It's a very spectacular idea, but unless you can date it accurately, it remains wild speculation.'
- 4 Frankie Boyle on Scottish independence: 'In the Interests of Unity, F**k Off'
- 5 Florida couple forced to register as sex offenders for having sex on public beach
Boston Marathon runner's search for mystery man she kissed ends with letter from his wife
Italian police 'reveal' what Jesus looked like as a young boy
Florida couple forced to register as sex offenders for having sex on public beach
Mysterious 'X-Files' sounds heard miles above the Earth
Met Gala 2015: Beyoncé manages to out-skimp Rihanna, Miley and Kim Kardashian with near-naked ensemble
In defence of liberal democracy
General Election 2015: Post-election 'shambles' looms as 70 per cent of voters say SNP 'should not be able to veto UK government policies'
The Rothschild Libel: Why has it taken 200 years for an anti-Semitic slur that emerged from the Battle of Waterloo to be dismissed?
General Election 2015: UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power, Labour warns
General election live: SNP suspends two members for disrupting Labour rally
Schools forced to act as 'miniature welfare states' with teachers buying underwear and even haircuts for poor pupils
£35000 - £50000 per annum + generous bonus: Ashdown Group: Business Analytics ...
£45000 - £50000 per annum: Ashdown Group: IT Project Coordinator (Software Dev...
£60000 - £70000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: A highly successful, glo...
£25000 - £30000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: A global leader operating...