Dinosaur-killing asteroid strike gave rise to Amazon rainforest

The asteroid impact 66 million years ago led not just to the extinction of dinosaurs, but other forms of life

The asteroid impact that killed off the dinosaurs gave birth to our planet’s tropical rainforests, a study suggests.

Researchers used fossil pollen and leaves from Colombia to investigate how the impact changed South American tropical forests.

After the 1km-wide space rock struck Earth 66 million years ago, the type of vegetation that made up these forests changed drastically.

The team has outlined its findings in the prestigious journal Science.

Co-author Dr Mónica Carvalho, from the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institution in Panama, said: “Our team examined over 50,000 fossil pollen records and more than 6,000 leaf fossils from before and after the impact.”

They found that cone-bearing plants called conifers and ferns were common before the huge asteroid struck what is now the Yucatan Peninsula in Mexico.

But after the devastating impact, plant diversity declined by roughly 45% and extinctions were widespread, particularly among seed-bearing plants.

While the forests recovered over the next six million years, angiosperms, or flowering plants, came to dominate them.

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