Correlated terrestrial and marine evidence for global climate changes before mass extinction at the Cretaceous-Paleogene boundary.
ABSTRACT: Terrestrial climates near the time of the end-Cretaceous mass extinction are poorly known, limiting understanding of environmentally driven changes in biodiversity that occurred before bolide impact. We estimate paleotemperatures for the last approximately 1.1 million years of the Cretaceous ( approximately 66.6-65.5 million years ago, Ma) by using fossil plants from North Dakota and employ paleomagnetic stratigraphy to correlate the results to foraminiferal paleoclimatic data from four middle- and high-latitude sites. Both plants and foraminifera indicate warming near 66.0 Ma, a warming peak from approximately 65.8 to 65.6 Ma, and cooling near 65.6 Ma, suggesting that these were global climate shifts. The warming peak coincides with the immigration of a thermophilic flora, maximum plant diversity, and the poleward range expansion of thermophilic foraminifera. Plant data indicate the continuation of relatively cool temperatures across the Cretaceous-Paleogene boundary; there is no indication of a major warming immediately after the boundary as previously reported. Our temperature proxies correspond well with recent pCO(2) data from paleosol carbonate, suggesting a coupling of pCO(2) and temperature. To the extent that biodiversity is correlated with temperature, estimates of the severity of end-Cretaceous extinctions that are based on occurrence data from the warming peak are probably inflated, as we illustrate for North Dakota plants. However, our analysis of climate and facies considerations shows that the effects of bolide impact should be regarded as the most significant contributor to these plant extinctions.
Project description:The Chicxulub bolide impact has been linked to a mass extinction of plants at the Cretaceous-Paleogene boundary (KPB; ∼66 Ma), but how this extinction affected plant ecological strategies remains understudied. Previous work in the Williston Basin, North Dakota, indicates that plants pursuing strategies with a slow return-on-investment of nutrients abruptly vanished after the KPB, consistent with a hypothesis of selection against evergreen species during the globally cold and dark impact winter that followed the bolide impact. To test whether this was a widespread pattern we studied 1,303 fossil leaves from KPB-spanning sediments in the Denver Basin, Colorado. We used the relationship between petiole width and leaf mass to estimate leaf dry mass per area (LMA), a leaf functional trait negatively correlated with rate of return-on-investment. We found no evidence for a shift in this leaf-economic trait across the KPB: LMA remained consistent in both its median and overall distribution from approximately 67 to 65 Ma. However, we did find spatio-temporal patterns in LMA, where fossil localities with low LMA occurred more frequently near the western margin of the basin. These western margin localities are proximal to the Colorado Front Range of the Rocky Mountains, where an orographically driven high precipitation regime is thought to have developed during the early Paleocene. Among these western Denver Basin localities, LMA and estimated mean annual precipitation were inversely correlated, a pattern consistent with observations of both fossil and extant plants. In the Denver Basin, local environmental conditions over time appeared to play a larger role in determining viable leaf-economic strategies than any potential global signal associated with the Chicxulub bolide impact.
Project description:The Chicxulub bolide impact caused the end-Cretaceous mass extinction of plants, but the associated selectivity and ecological effects are poorly known. Using a unique set of North Dakota leaf fossil assemblages spanning 2.2 Myr across the event, we show among angiosperms a reduction of ecological strategies and selection for fast-growth strategies consistent with a hypothesized recovery from an impact winter. Leaf mass per area (carbon investment) decreased in both mean and variance, while vein density (carbon assimilation rate) increased in mean, consistent with a shift towards "fast" growth strategies. Plant extinction from the bolide impact resulted in a shift in functional trait space that likely had broad consequences for ecosystem functioning.
Project description:Abstract The latest Cenomanian to Santonian sedimentary record recovered at IODP Expedition 369 Site U1513 in the Mentelle Basin (SE Indian Ocean, paleolatitude 60°S at 85 Ma) is studied to interpret the paleoceanographic evolution in the Southern Hemisphere. The planktonic foraminiferal assemblage changes, the depth ecology preferences of different species, and the surface and seafloor temperature inferred from the stable isotopic values measured on foraminiferal tests provide meaningful information to the understanding of the Late Cretaceous climate. The hothouse climate during the Turonian‐Santonian, characterized by weak latitudinal temperature gradients and high atmospheric CO2 concentrations, is followed by a progressive cooling during the Campanian. At Site U1513 the beginning of this climatic transition is nicely recorded within the Santonian, as indicated by an ∼1‰ increase in δ18O values of planktonic foraminifera suggesting a decline in surface water paleotemperatures of 4°C. The onset of cooling is mirrored by changes in the planktonic foraminiferal assemblages including extinctions among surface and deep dwellers, appearances and diversification of newly evolving taxa, and changes from predominantly epifaunal oxic to infaunal dysoxic/suboxic taxa among co‐occurring benthic foraminifera. Overall, the data presented here document an interval in the Santonian during which the rate of southern high latitude cooling increased. Both surface and bottom waters were affected, although the cooling signal is more evident in the data for surface waters. This pattern of cooling ascribes the deterioration of the Late Cretaceous climate to decreased CO2 in the atmosphere and changes in the oceanic circulation correlated with enhanced meridional circulation. Key Points Latest Cenomanian‐Santonian integrated planktonic foraminifera and calcareous nannofossils biostratigraphy at southern high latitudes (62°S) Onset in the Santonian of the Late Cretaceous cooling revealed by foraminifera changes and stable isotopes in the Southern Hemisphere The Santonian cooling event affected surface and bottom waters and was more dramatic in the surface waters with paleotemperatures of 14°C
Project description:The Mesozoic era (∼252 to 66 million years ago) was a key interval in Earth's evolution toward its modern state, witnessing the breakup of the supercontinent Pangaea and significant biotic innovations like the early evolution of mammals. Plate tectonic dynamics drove a fundamental climatic transition from the early Mesozoic supercontinent toward the Late Cretaceous fragmented continental configuration. Here, key aspects of Mesozoic long-term environmental changes are assessed in a climate model ensemble framework. We analyze so far the most extended ensemble of equilibrium climate states simulated for evolving Mesozoic boundary conditions covering the period from 255 to 60 Ma in 5 Myr timesteps. Global mean temperatures are generally found to be elevated above the present and exhibit a baseline warming trend driven by rising sea levels and increasing solar luminosity. Warm (Triassic and mid-Cretaceous) and cool (Jurassic and end-Cretaceous) anomalies result from pCO<sub>2</sub> changes indicated by different reconstructions. Seasonal and zonal temperature contrasts as well as continental aridity show an overall decrease from the Late Triassic-Early Jurassic to the Late Cretaceous. Meridional temperature gradients are reduced at higher global temperatures and less land area in the high latitudes. With systematic sensitivity experiments, the influence of paleogeography, sea level, vegetation patterns, pCO<sub>2</sub>, solar luminosity, and orbital configuration on these trends is investigated. For example, long-term seasonality trends are driven by paleogeography, but orbital cycles could have had similar-scale effects on shorter timescales. Global mean temperatures, continental humidity, and meridional temperature gradients are, however, also strongly affected by pCO<sub>2</sub>.
Project description:Plant and associated insect-damage diversity in the western U.S.A. decreased significantly at the Cretaceous-Paleogene (K-Pg) boundary and remained low until the late Paleocene. However, the Mexican Hat locality (ca. 65 Ma) in southeastern Montana, with a typical, low-diversity flora, uniquely exhibits high damage diversity on nearly all its host plants, when compared to all known local and regional early Paleocene sites. The same plant species show minimal damage elsewhere during the early Paleocene. We asked whether the high insect damage diversity at Mexican Hat was more likely related to the survival of Cretaceous insects from refugia or to an influx of novel Paleocene taxa. We compared damage on 1073 leaf fossils from Mexican Hat to over 9000 terminal Cretaceous leaf fossils from the Hell Creek Formation of nearby southwestern North Dakota and to over 9000 Paleocene leaf fossils from the Fort Union Formation in North Dakota, Montana, and Wyoming. We described the entire insect-feeding ichnofauna at Mexican Hat and focused our analysis on leaf mines because they are typically host-specialized and preserve a number of diagnostic morphological characters. Nine mine damage types attributable to three of the four orders of leaf-mining insects are found at Mexican Hat, six of them so far unique to the site. We found no evidence linking any of the diverse Hell Creek mines with those found at Mexican Hat, nor for the survival of any Cretaceous leaf miners over the K-Pg boundary regionally, even on well-sampled, surviving plant families. Overall, our results strongly relate the high damage diversity on the depauperate Mexican Hat flora to an influx of novel insect herbivores during the early Paleocene, possibly caused by a transient warming event and range expansion, and indicate drastic extinction rather than survivorship of Cretaceous insect taxa from refugia.
Project description:Insects are a hyper-diverse group, comprising nearly three-quarters of all named animal species on the Earth, but the environmental drivers of their richness and the roles of ecological interactions and evolutionary innovations remain unclear. Previous studies have argued that family-level insect richness increased continuously over the evolutionary history of the group, but inclusion of extant family records artificially inflated the relative richness of younger time intervals. Here we apply sampling-standardization methods to a species-level database of fossil insect occurrences, removing biases present in previous richness curves. We show that insect family-richness peaked 125 Ma and that Recent values are only 1.5-3 times as high as the Late Palaeozoic. Rarefied species-richness data also tentatively suggest little or no net increase in richness over the past 125 Myr. The Cretaceous peak in family richness was coincident with major radiations within extant groups but occurred prior to extinctions within more basal groups. Those extinctions may in part be linked to mid-Cretaceous floral turnover following the evolution of flowering plants. Negligible net richness change over the past 125 Myr implies that major radiations within extant groups were offset by reduced richness within groups that are now relict or extinct.
Project description:The southernmost Cretaceous - Paleogene (K-Pg) outcrop exposure is the well-studied exposure on Seymour Island, Antarctica. Deposition across the K-Pg boundary there is uninterrupted, and as a consequence the ammonite fossil record is commonly used to test statistical methods of evaluating mass extinctions to account for the incompleteness of the fossil record. Numerous detailed fossil data sets from Seymour Island, comprised dominantly of mollusks, have been published over the last 30 years, but in most cases have not received statistical treatment. Here a previously published statistical technique is modified, automated, and applied to all published macrofossil data sets available from Seymour Island. All data sets reveal likely evidence of two separate multi-species extinctions, one synchronous with bolide impact evidence at the K-Pg boundary, and another 45?±?15 meters (~140-290 ky) below the boundary. The apparent earlier extinction primarily affects benthic mollusks, while the boundary extinction primarily affects ammonites. While there is no unique sedimentological change over the interval where the earlier extinction is identified, it is impossible to exclude the possibility that this pattern is stratigraphically controlled. The automation of this technique allows it to be applied easily to other large fossil data sets.
Project description:A 2 to 4 °C warming episode, known as the Latest Maastrichtian warming event (LMWE), preceded the Cretaceous-Paleogene boundary (KPB) mass extinction at 66.05 ± 0.08 Ma and has been linked with the onset of voluminous Deccan Traps volcanism. Here, we use direct measurements of melt-inclusion CO<sub>2</sub> concentrations and trace-element proxies for CO<sub>2</sub> to test the hypothesis that early Deccan magmatism triggered this warming interval. We report CO<sub>2</sub> concentrations from NanoSIMS and Raman spectroscopic analyses of melt-inclusion glass and vapor bubbles hosted in magnesian olivines from pre-KPB Deccan primitive basalts. Reconstructed melt-inclusion CO<sub>2</sub> concentrations range up to 0.23 to 1.2 wt% CO<sub>2</sub> for lavas from the Saurashtra Peninsula and the Thakurvadi Formation in the Western Ghats region. Trace-element proxies for CO<sub>2</sub> concentration (Ba and Nb) yield estimates of initial melt concentrations of 0.4 to 1.3 wt% CO<sub>2</sub> prior to degassing. Our data imply carbon saturation and degassing of Deccan magmas initiated at high pressures near the Moho or in the lower crust. Furthermore, we find that the earliest Deccan magmas were more CO<sub>2</sub> rich, which we hypothesize facilitated more efficient flushing and outgassing from intrusive magmas. Based on carbon cycle modeling and estimates of preserved lava volumes for pre-KPB lavas, we find that volcanic CO<sub>2</sub> outgassing alone remains insufficient to account for the magnitude of the observed latest Maastrichtian warming. However, accounting for intrusive outgassing can reconcile early carbon-rich Deccan Traps outgassing with observed changes in climate and atmospheric pCO<sub>2</sub>.
Project description:Debate continues about the nature of the Cretaceous-Paleogene (K-Pg) mass extinction event. An abrupt crisis triggered by a bolide impact contrasts with ideas of a more gradual extinction involving flood volcanism or climatic changes. Evidence from high latitudes has also been used to suggest that the severity of the extinction decreased from low latitudes towards the poles. Here we present a record of the K-Pg extinction based on extensive assemblages of marine macrofossils (primarily new data from benthic molluscs) from a highly expanded Cretaceous-Paleogene succession: the López de Bertodano Formation of Seymour Island, Antarctica. We show that the extinction was rapid and severe in Antarctica, with no significant biotic decline during the latest Cretaceous, contrary to previous studies. These data are consistent with a catastrophic driver for the extinction, such as bolide impact, rather than a significant contribution from Deccan Traps volcanism during the late Maastrichtian.
Project description:Most paleo-episodes of ocean acidification (OA) were either too slow or too small to be instructive in predicting near-future impacts. The end-Cretaceous event (66 Mya) is intriguing in this regard, both because of its rapid onset and also because many pelagic calcifying species (including 100% of ammonites and more than 90% of calcareous nannoplankton and foraminifera) went extinct at this time. Here we evaluate whether extinction-level OA could feasibly have been produced by the asteroid impact. Carbon cycle box models were used to estimate OA consequences of (i) vaporization of up to 60 × 10(15) mol of sulfur from gypsum rocks at the point of impact; (ii) generation of up to 5 × 10(15) mol of NOx by the impact pressure wave and other sources; (iii) release of up to 6,500 Pg C as CO2 from vaporization of carbonate rocks, wildfires, and soil carbon decay; and (iv) ocean overturn bringing high-CO2 water to the surface. We find that the acidification produced by most processes is too weak to explain calcifier extinctions. Sulfuric acid additions could have made the surface ocean extremely undersaturated (?calcite <0.5), but only if they reached the ocean very rapidly (over a few days) and if the quantity added was at the top end of literature estimates. We therefore conclude that severe ocean acidification might have been, but most likely was not, responsible for the great extinctions of planktonic calcifiers and ammonites at the end of the Cretaceous.