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American Association for the Advancement of Science

Algae was quick to recover

The Cretaceous-Paleogene Boundary (Fiskeler) at Kulstirenden, Stevns Klint, Denmark.
[Image courtesy of Julio Sepulveda]

About 65 million years ago, an asteroid struck the Earth and disrupted ecosystems around the world. Many of the creatures on the planet then died off and went extinct. This traumatic event is known as the K-T boundary or the K-T extinction event.

However, after this mass extinction, it did not take Earth's "primary producers" – algae and phytoplankton – long to recover, researchers say. In fact, they might have resumed their important responsibility of photosynthesis in just 50 years after the asteroid impact. This discovery will be published in the 2 October issue of the journal Science.

View of the cliff at Kulstirenden, Stevns Klint, Denmark.
[Image courtesy of Julio Sepulveda]

Researcher Julio Sepúlveda and colleagues studied isotopes – as well as the ancient remains of algae and bacteria – from a thick layer of clay in Kulstirenden, Denmark in order to reach these conclusions.

The team was able to track the productivity of algae around the time of the K-T extinction event, and found that it dropped off dramatically for a short period of time. However, they say that in as little as half a century, the algae had already recovered – and photosynthesis along with marine primary productivity had resumed as well.