Almost half a billion years ago, there was a massive explosion of species growth on Earth, causing the biodiversity of animals to extend dramatically; however, the valid reason for that event has remained a mystery.
In a newspaper published on Wednesday in Science Advances, scientists present that the event’s onset coincided with the most significant documented asteroid breakup in the asteroid belt over the past two billion years.
That breakup, which was triggered by a collision with another asteroid or comet, would have spread enormous amounts of dust throughout the solar system.
“The blocking impact of this dust could have partly stopped sunlight from reaching the Earth resulting in cooler temperatures,” the research’s co-author Birger Schmitz, a professor of nuclear physics at Lund University, writes in The Conversation. “We all know that this involved the climate changing from being more or less homogeneous to becoming divided into climate zones from Arctic conditions at the poles to tropical conditions on the equator. The high diversity among invertebrates, including green algae, primitive fish, cephalopods and corals, came as an adaptation to the new climate.”
The scientists cite proof in detailed research of sea surface sediments in Sweden and Russia that contain “fossil meteorites” or rocks that fell on the Earth in its ancient past and were preserved similar to animal fossils.
Schmitz and his colleagues additionally studied the distribution of very fine-grained, extremely tiny dust in the sediment, determining its extra-terrestrial origin by discovering helium and different substances inside the sediments. The work has implications for climate research and the warming of the Earth’s atmosphere that’s taking place.