A team of international researchers has released a paper which argues that an ancient asteroid impact, which took place almost 470 million years ago, played an important role by increasing the diversity of life on Earth.
According to the researchers, the destruction of a significant asteroid from the belt situated between Jupiter and Mars led to a flood of dust which filled the entire inner solar system with a considerable quantity of dust. The presence of the dust generated a particular ice age which encouraged the development of higher levels of biodiversity according to the paper.
A large number of dust particles present in the atmosphere was able to partially block the amount of sunlight which reached our planet, triggering a climate change. During this period climate went from being almost homogenous to being split into several climate zones, from the frigid wastes in the Arctic to tropical havens at the equator.
Ancient Asteroid Impact Boosted The Diversity Of Life On Earth
Invertebrates reacted to climate change, and their diversity started to increase. It is estimated that the asteroid had a width of 93 miles. A powerful impact broke it, releasing the dust. The phenomenon has been compared to tearing a vacuum cleaner bag, but the scale was considerably larger.
It is estimated that 40,000 tons of extraterrestrial material will reach our planet every year, according to the primary author of the study. The quantity can be multiplied by thousands in the case of the flood of dust which hit our planet after the asteroid was destroyed.
The cooling effect caused by the asteroid dust is different in comparison to the one produced by the asteroid which struck Earth 65 million years ago, leading to the death of dinosaurs. It was also slower than global warming, which affects our planet today. Traces of asteroid dust were observed in ancient stone samples recovered from the seafloor. The research also infers that the oceans were shallower in the past. More information can be found in the study, which was published in a scientific journal.