The asteroid thought to have wiped out the dinosaurs helped to create the world's rainforests, a new study claims.
The impact of the 12km-wide space rock striking Earth 66million years ago is understood to have drastically changed the plant life in South America's tropical rainforests.
More than 56,000 pollen and leaf fossils from Columbia were studied, which revealed a huge shift in the types of vegetation were around before the asteroid hit.
Publishing the findings in the journal Science, co-author Dr Mónica Carvalho, of the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institution in Panama, wrote: "Our team examined over 50,000 fossil pollen records and more than 6,000 leaf fossils from before and after the impact."
She added: "The lesson learned here is that under rapid disturbances… tropical ecosystems do not just bounce back; they are replaced, and the process takes a really long time,"
Conifers and ferns covered the rainforests before the asteroid struck the Yucatan Peninsula in Mexico, according to the research.
However, many plants, particularly those that bore seeds, were wiped out completely after the deadly impact, with vegetation diversity declining by almost half (45%).
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During the next six million years, flowering plants took over, while the once spaced out trees were replaced by dense canopies.
The devastating impact of the asteroid, known as the Cretaceous-Paleogene (K-Pg) extinction event, is believed to have killed off 75% of animals on Earth during the Cretaceous period.
The event is thought to have affected all continents at the same time.
Fossil pollen from New Mexico, Alaska, China, and New Zealand has suggested similar changes to plant life.
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