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How Was Marine Life Affected by the Asteroid That Killed the Dinosaurs?

Talk about a ripple effect: It's widely acknowledged that an enormous asteroid ended the reign of the dinosaurs when it crashed into Earth approximately 66 million years ago, but now researchers say it did much more widespread damage, turning the world's oceans into acid baths, wiping out sea creatures, and destroying ecosystems that sustained most other life on Earth. In effect, the impact of the Chicxulub asteroid sent a massive amount of sulfuric rock into the sea and completely changed ecosystems for millions of years. The study, conducted by researchers from Yale University and the U.K's Bristol University, appears to have answered some longstanding questions about the sudden extinction of Earth's marine life.

Even more alarming is the suggestion that the transformation of the ocean was not necessarily a one-time occurrence. According to climate change data, the present-day release of carbon dioxide into Earth's atmosphere is doing the same thing to the oceans that the asteroid did. Yale geophysicist Noah Planavsky says the current rate of acidification of the sea is comparable to that of 66 million years ago, and there is a real threat of a similar catastrophe coming within the next century.

The end of the dinosaurs:

  • It wasn't until 1980 that father-and-son scientists Luis and Walter Alvarez put forth the idea that an asteroid caused the extinction of the dinosaurs.
  • The Chicxulub asteroid is believed to have been between 6 and 9 miles (9.7 and 14.5 km) wide; some experts have said it was about the size of Manhattan.
  • Although the asteroid theory is widely believed, others maintain that dinosaurs might have been wiped out by climate change, volcanic eruptions or large-scale sea level change.
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