Shaping of the present-day deep biosphere at Chicxulub by the impact catastrophe that ended the Cretaceous

Charles Cockell, Bettina Schaefer, Cornelia Wuchter, Marco Coolen, Kliti Grice, Luzie Schnieders, Joanna Morgan, Sean Gulick, Axel Wittmann, Johanna Lofi, Gail Christeson, David Kring, Michael Whalen, Timothy Bralower, Gordon Osinski, Philippe Claeys, Pim Kaskes, Sietze de Graaff, Thomas Déhais, Steven GoderisNatali Hernandez Becerra, Sophie Nixon, IODP-ICDP Expedition 364 Scientists

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


We report on the effect of the end-Cretaceous impact event on the present-day deep microbial biosphere at the impact site. IODP-ICDP Expedition 364 drilled into the peak ring of the Chicxulub crater, México, allowing us to investigate the microbial communities within this structure. Increased cell biomass was found in the impact suevite, which was deposited within the first few hours of the Cenozoic, demonstrating that the impact produced a new lithological horizon that caused a long-term improvement in deep subsurface colonization potential. In the biologically impoverished granitic rocks, we observed increased cell abundances at impact-induced geological interfaces, that can be attributed to the nutritionally diverse substrates and/or elevated fluid flow. 16S rRNA gene amplicon sequencing revealed taxonomically distinct microbial communities in each crater lithology. These observations show that the impact caused geological deformation that continues to shape the deep subsurface biosphere at Chicxulub in the present day.

Original languageEnglish
Article number668240
JournalFrontiers in Microbiology
Publication statusPublished - 24 Jun 2021


  • chicxulub
  • craters
  • deep biosphere
  • drilling
  • impact crater


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