Comet impact leads to dispersal of mammals 56M years ago: researchers say

Comet impact leads to dispersal of mammals 56M years ago: researchers say

A massive cosmic crash possibly heated up Earth nearly 56 million years ago and triggered expansion and dispersal of mammal groups, a study published in the journal Science suggested.

Dennis Kent, of Rutgers University, and his colleagues said that the glass found in sediment cores drilled along the coast of New Jersey was likely the result of a 10-kilometer-wide comet’s slamming into the Atlantic Ocean.

The impact of the cosmic crash 55.6 million years ago led to release of carbon dioxide (CO2) and other greenhouse gases that heated up Earth very rapidly. During this event, average global temperature increased by nearly 6 degree Celsius in less than 1,000 years.

That spike in global temperature caused several water species to extinct, while also prompted the dispersal of mammal groups to new parts of the world. In addition, the mammals diversified into three groups, viz. the Artiodactyla, the Perissodactyla and the Primates, which are present even today.

Modern Artiodactyla group includes pigs, sheep, camels and giraffes; while the Perissodactyla group includes horses, rhinos, zebras and tapirs. The Primates group includes humans.

That ancient warm period, called the Palaeocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum (PETM), is often weighed against today’s human-induced climate change.

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