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Researchers map underwater crater linked to dinosaur extinction 65 mln yrs ago

Washington, Dec 10 : Scientists have long known that an asteroid or comet crashed into a shallow sea near what is now the Yucatan Peninsula of Mexico about 65 million years ago, but up until recently, they've never been able to see its crater.


Now a team of researchers has finally created the first detailed map of the crater- which measures over 160 kilometers across by using multi-beam sonars and have suggested that the resulting firestorm and global dust cloud caused the extinction of many land plants and large animals, including most of the dinosaurs.

In March 2013, an international team of researchers led by Charlie Paull of the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute (MBARI) created the first detailed map of the Campeche Escarpment. The team used multi-beam sonars on the research vessel Falkor, operated by the Schmidt Ocean Institute.

Paull has long suspected that rocks associated with the impact might be exposed along the Campeche Escarpment, a 600-kilometer-long underwater cliff just northwest of the Yucatan Peninsula. Nearly 4,000 meters tall, the Campeche Escarpment is one of the steepest and tallest underwater features on Earth. It is comparable to one wall of the Grand Canyona€"except that it lies thousands of meters beneath the sea.

As in the walls of the Grand Canyon, sedimentary rock layers exposed on the face of the Campeche Escarpment provide a sequential record of the events that have occurred over millions of years. Based on the new maps, Paull believes that rocks formed before, during, and after the impact are all exposed along different parts of this underwater cliff.

The newly created maps of the Campeche Escarpment could open a new chapter in research about one of the largest extinction events in Earth's history.

The study will be presented at the meeting of the American Geophysical Union (AGU) in San Francisco.

--ANI (Posted on 10-12-2013)

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