Mass Extinction Event Spared Europe

Friday, June 10, 2011

When a comet crashed into the Yucatan Peninsula 65 million years ago, all hell broke loose. Scientists have guessed at the scene: a world enshrouded in ashen darkness leftover from the cosmic impact that left almost nothing -- including the dinosaurs -- standing.

But a new study shows that in western Europe at least, the effects were far less terrifying.

Fossil leaves from four million years after the impact show that plants and insects had made a full recovery.

"It looks like a healthy ecosystem at 61 million years ago," said Torsten Wappler of the University of Bonn. "You have a huge diversity of plants, and plant and insect interactions."

Wappler and a team of researchers tallied up the holes and chew marks insects left in fossil leaves unearthed in France. Depending on the patterns of munching, they could often distinguish which species fed on a particular leaf.

Previous evidence from western North America shows that up to 60 percent of plant species died out after the impact along with many insects that relied on them to survive.It took 10 million years for life to recover.

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