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Discovery of fish mortality horizon at the K-T Boundary on Seymour Island: Re-evaluation of events at the end of the Cretaceous

  • William J. Zinsmeister (a1)
Abstract

The discovery of a fish bone layer immediately overlying the K-T iridium anomaly on Seymour Island, Antarctic Peninsula, which may represent the first documented mass kill associated with the impact event, together with new faunal data across the boundary has provided new insight into events at the end of the Cretaceous. The utilization of a geographical approach and a new graphical representation of range data has revealed that events at the end of the Cretaceous were not instantaneous, but occurred over a finite period of time. Although the fish bone layer may contain victims of the impact event, the absence of ammonites in either the iridiumbearing layer or the overlying fish layer suggests that the extinction event at the end of the Cretaceous was the culmination of several processes beginning in the late Campanian. The impact was the proverbial “straw that broke the camel's back,” leading to the extinction of many others forms of life that might have survived the period of global biotic stress during the waning stages of the Mesozoic if there had not been an impact. The absence of mass extinction following catastrophic geologic events in a biotic robust world, such as the Middle Ordovician Millbrig-Big Bentonite volcanic event suggests that the biosphere is remarkably resilient to major geologic catastrophes with mass extinction events occurring only when there is a conjunction of geologic events none of which might be capable of producing a global mass extinction by itself.

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