An asteroid that killed dinosaurs could transform the oceans of the Earth into poisonous acid.
About 65.5 million years ago, in the era of the great Mel-Paleogene extinction, according to modern estimates, about 80% of all species of living organisms on the planet died. Not only the giant lizards that walked on land, but also the inhabitants of the superficial layers of the ocean, the population of shallow fresh water bodies, were particularly affected. According to the most popular hypothesis today, the crash was caused by the Earth’s collision with a large (approximately 10 km across) asteroid, the impact of which was left by the 180-kilometer Chicxulub crater on the Mexican Yucatan Peninsula.
A new simulation of the ancient catastrophe was recently conducted by Japanese researchers, revealing an even more terrible picture of the tragic events of the end of the Jurassic period. The fall of the meteorite could lead to the evaporation of a large amount of sulfuric anhydride and the penetration of sulfur oxide (VI) into the atmosphere, where it, interacting with water, easily turned into the most genuine sulfuric acid. In the next few days, the planet, which did not have time to recover from the impact, was covered with acid rain.
These events remarkably explain the fact that most deep-sea creatures survived the extinction, while those living closer to the surface and disappeared almost without exception. Strong acidification of the world ocean covered mainly the upper layers. The new model explains another riddle of the Mel-Paleogene extinction - the so-called “fern peak”, associated with a sharp jump in the number of fern spores in sediments dating back to the time that came immediately after the disaster. Ferns are one of the rare plants that tolerate soil acidification, and they should have survived the effects of sulfur oxide emissions relatively easily.