Extinction, dissolution, and possible ocean acidification prior to the Cretaceous/Paleogene (K/Pg) boundary in the tropical Pacific

Biotic perturbations and changes in ocean circulation during the Maastrichtian stage of the latest Cretaceous raise questions about whether the biosphere was preconditioned for the end-Cretaceous mass extinction of calcareous plankton. A brief acme of inoceramid clams at ~ 71 Ma on Shatsky Rise in the tropical North Pacific was followed by their extinction during the “mid-Maastrichtian event” at 70.1 Ma associated with an abrupt warming of deep waters. This was later followed by an interval of intense dissolution beginning ~ 67.8 Ma at ODP Site 1209 (2387 m). The late Maastrichtian dissolution interval was initially gradual, and is characterized by a low planktic/benthic (P/B) ratio, highly fragmented planktic foraminifera, mostly an absence of larger taxa, low abundances of smaller taxa, extremely low planktic foraminiferal numbers, and low planktic foraminiferal and nannofossil species richness. A partial recovery in carbonate preservation and calcareous plankton simple diversity began ~ 250 kyr prior to the K/Pg boundary associated with the incursion of a younger (more enriched δ13C) deep water mass, although total abundances of planktic foraminifera in the sediment remained a tiny fraction of their earlier Maastrichtian values. A second, brief dissolution event occurred ~ 200 kyr before the boundary evidenced by renewed increase in planktic fragmentation, but without a decrease in P/B ratio. Our data show that changing deep water masses, coupled with reduced productivity and associated decrease in pelagic carbonate flux was responsible for the first ~ 1.6-Myr dissolution interval, while Deccan Traps volcanism (?) may have caused surface ocean acidification ~ 200 kyr prior to the K/Pg mass extinction event.

Dameron S. N., Leckie R. M., Clark K., MacLeod K., Thomas D. J. & Lees J. A., in press. Extinction, dissolution, and possible ocean acidification prior to the Cretaceous/Paleogene (K/Pg) boundary in the tropical Pacific. Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology. Article.

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