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Review article on extraterrestrial impacts
This just out. . .
Charles S. Cockell and Philip A. Bland. In Press, Corrected Proof, Available
online 19 January 2005. The evolutionary and ecological benefits of asteroid
and comet impacts. Trends in Ecology & Evolution.
Commonly viewed solely as agents of destruction, asteroid and comet impact
events can also have a beneficial influence on processes from the molecular
to the evolutionary scale. On the heavily bombarded early Earth, impacts
might have delivered and caused the synthesis of prebiotic compounds that
eventually led to life. At the organismal and ecosystem level, impact events
can provide new habitats through the shock processing of target materials
and by enhancing water availability, such as within intracrater lakes. At
the evolutionary level, by destroying entire groups of organisms, impacts
might have been instrumental in enabling the rise of new groups, such as the
dinosaurs and mammals. Here, we synthesize the emerging literature on the
beneficial effects of impacts to provide a novel perspective on these
extraterrestrial agents of biological change.