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Radiolarian biodiversity dynamics through the Triassic and Jurassic: implications for proximate causes of the end-Triassic mass extinction

  • Ádám T. Kocsis (a1), Wolfgang Kiessling (a2) and József Pálfy (a1)

Within a ∼60-Myr interval in the Late Triassic to Early Jurassic, a major mass extinction took place at the end of Triassic, and several biotic and environmental events of lesser magnitude have been recognized. Climate warming, ocean acidification, and a biocalcification crisis figure prominently in scenarios for the end-Triassic event and have been also suggested for the early Toarcian. Radiolarians, as the most abundant silica-secreting marine microfossils of the time, provide a control group against marine calcareous taxa in testing selectivity and responses to changing environmental parameters. We analyzed the origination and extinction rates of radiolarians, using data from the Paleobiology Database and employing sampling standardization, the recently developed gap-filler equations and an improved stratigraphic resolution at the substage level. The major end-Triassic event is well-supported by a late Rhaetian peak in extinction rates. Because calcifying and siliceous organisms appear similarly affected, we consider global warming a more likely proximate trigger of the extinctions than ocean acidification. The previously reported smaller events of radiolarian turnover fail to register above background levels in our analyses. The apparent early Norian extinction peak is not significant compared to the long-term trajectory, and is probably a sampling artifact. The Toarcian Oceanic Anoxic Event, previously also thought to have caused a significant radiolarian turnover, did not significantly affect the group. Radiolarian diversity history appears unique and complexly forced, as its trajectory parallels major calcareous fossil groups at some events and deviates at others.

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