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If a world containing various biomes (frozen tundra, plains, volcanic etc), was destroyed by an asteroid or series of natural disasters, would the huge chunks of the world be able continue supporting life immediately after / survivors?

Broken down as suggested...

The now destroyed world would be separated into various pieces (some huge, the size of continents). Would they simply have the characteristics of asteroids themselves (i.e. dead rock) eradicating all possibility for sustaining life or creating life?

Would survival even be possible in the event of a global collision / destruction by natural forces?

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  • $\begingroup$ Welcome to Worldbuilding SO. Your question seems quite broad. Maybe you could narrow it down a bit, or split it up into separate questions? $\endgroup$ – Burki Apr 23 '15 at 11:00
  • $\begingroup$ To clarify - do you actually mean shattering the planet into pieces? $\endgroup$ – Tim B Apr 23 '15 at 12:15
  • $\begingroup$ Yes that's right. Some pieces will be huge like continent size, others smaller. $\endgroup$ – Redpaw101 Apr 23 '15 at 12:20
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As I understand the question (which seems different from Thucylides' answer), you ask about a planet which is blasted into several pieces by the asteroid impact. We're talking about an event similar to this theory how the moon was created, except that there are even more chunks. The energy to accelerate much of Earth beyond the escape velocity of the remainder is awesome.

While life might survive on the chunks, e.g. based on endoliths, I don't see how biomes could survive in any recognizable form.

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I would answer No because of atmoshperic escape.

If a world is broken into several pieces the main problem would be that the gravitational pull of those pieces will probably not be enough to maintain an atmosphere around it.

Without this gravitational force, the atmosphere would disperse into space within a few seconds and it would lead to death all life on any biomes.

Source here :

Gravity is what keeps a planet's gaseous atmosphere from spreading out into space away from the planet. If we compare the gravitational pull of each planet in our solar system we would find them to be different. This is because a planet's gravity is related to its mass.

Here you have all details about atmospheric escape parameters.


Moreover, because life is adapted to it's environment, if a world would shatter into several pieces, even if those pieces are big enough for to maintain an atmosphere of their own, life would not be adapted to this gravitational change. Why, because their mass is adapted to the original gravitational pull.

Let's say that earth is broken into small pieces. One is the size of the moon and let's assume that it can maintain an atmosphere for us to live. On the moon, gravity is far lower than on earth. Astronauts need very heavy boots to walk on the moon. As we are, we could not live on the moon even with atmosphere.


From a weather point of view, there would be a huge modification of atmospheric pressure. Life could survive but the biome will not be the same as before the blast.

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No, because any pieces big enough to support an atmosphere would melt.

Any pieces to small to be a planet on their own would lose their atmosphere, killing everything on that chunk.

A piece that was big enough to support an atmosphere would do something else. Planets are round for a reason, and that reason is that the force of gravity is to great to allow them to be in any particularly non-round shapes. The force on the rock is to great for them to remain, for example, as a half sphere. Gravity will, quite quickly, crunch up the broken planet bit and squish it back into a sphere. As chunks of the planet fall towards the planet's center of gravity, they will lose potential energy, which will convert first into kinetic energy and then into heat. Lots and lots of heat. This heat should be sufficient to re-melt your mini planetoids, an event which is quite unsurvivable for life. Small pockets of bacteria may survive in any lucky rocks that manage to not get liquefied, but all complex life will perish.

*Addendum: This is assuming that your planet breaks apart in such a way that the breaking event doesn't kill anything, and that your planet doesn't re-coalesce under its own gravity, which would kill everything, but leave one large blob of molten rock instead of several small ones.

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If your question means would the world ecosystem continue to operate even if one or more biomes were destroyed or disrupted, the answer is "yes".

Earth has had various episodes where the numbers of biomes have been severely restricted (i.e. snowball Earth), or large scale events have disrupted most or even all of the biomes (the Permian extinction event killed off up to 96% of all marine species, for example), so life is pretty resilient.

What will happen is the biomes around the edge of the disrupted ones will also suffer a series of disruptions (biomes generally blend into each other), and a cascade effect will eventually ripple across the entire planet. After a period of time, depending on the nature of the disaster, plant and animal life will begin to recolonize the disaster zone. Life pretty much recolonizes almost anywhere, from the slopes of active volcanoes to the radioactive zones around Chernobyl, so something will start growing back, even if it is only lichens and mosses or colonies of bacteria at first.

Eventually, given enough time, a fairly large and robust ecosystem will recolonize the area. If enough time passes, and conditions are different enough (and no one interferes), the colonizing creatures and plants may begin to evolve to meet the new conditions and eventually (@ half a million years time frame) will evolve into new species adapted to the conditions.

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  • $\begingroup$ I have to admit I interpreted the question to mean large biomes were destroyed on the planet, rather than the planet being destroyed itself. If the planet is destroyed, the best you could hope for is bacterial life living deep in the crust continuing to survive so long as minerals and water are available, and the temperature of the rock remains above freezing. $\endgroup$ – Thucydides Apr 23 '15 at 20:45
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Answer here is no for a few reasons. I believe the question here is if the world got blasted into chunks and a piece of the earth that was once tundra land would float off and continue to support life...correct me if I'm wrong there.

They would be dead rock. An impact with enough force to blast apart the earth would heat the atmosphere by thousands of degrees and most life will meet it's end with the impact. If something was able to survive, the new rock wouldn't be large enough to maintain it's own atmosphere...so it'd be barren in the dead of space.

On the off chance that manages to survive...the Earth supports a rather large magnetic field that protects us from the harsh waves found in space (radiation mostly). This radiation would break down life at a molecular level and without it we're kinda screwed.

For what it's worth...this rock may have enough basic components of life go dormant that it could float off and seed some barren world millions of years in the future (asteroids seeding life around the galaxy).

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