There is only one event in the history of our planet which has brought about global change more rapidly than today’s human-driven extinctions – the asteroid that killed the dinosaurs.
Scientists studied fossils from just after the cataclysmic impact in order to understand how quickly our planet can recover from disaster (and why there seems to be a limit to it).
Scientists say that the 10 million years it took our planet to recover from the mass extinction which wiped out the dinosaurs 66 million years ago could have important parallels now.
The researchers say that there appears to be a ‘speed limit’ on how fast the planet can recover from such events – capped at about 10 million years.
The researchers looked at the link between recovery and evolution because of earlier research that found recovery took millions of years despite many areas being habitable soon after Earth’s most recent mass extinction.
The team tracked recovery over time using fossils from a type of plankton called
foraminifera, or forams.
They found that a certan amount of ecological complexity seems to be required before life can really kick back into gear.
The speed limit is related to the time it takes to build up a new inventory of traits that can produce new species at a rate comparable to before the extinction event.
Lead author Christopher Lowery, a research associate at the University of Texas Institute for Geophysics (UTIG) said, ‘Thhe implication should be that these same processes would be active in all other extinctions.
‘I think this is the likely explanation for the speed limit of recovery for everything.’