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Rapid recovery of life at ground zero of the end-Cretaceous mass extinction

Lowery, Christopher M. and Farley, Kenneth A. (2018) Rapid recovery of life at ground zero of the end-Cretaceous mass extinction. Nature, 558 (7709). pp. 288-291. ISSN 0028-0836.

[img] Image (JPEG) (Extended Data Fig. 1: Location of site M0077 in the Chicxulub crater as seen using gravity data) - Supplemental Material
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[img] Image (JPEG) (Extended Data Fig. 2: Trace fossils in core 40 section 1 of IODP hole M0077A) - Supplemental Material
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[img] Image (JPEG) (Extended Data Fig. 3: Reworked Cretaceous foraminifera in the transitional unit) - Supplemental Material
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[img] Image (JPEG) (Extended Data Fig. 4: Scanning electron micrographs of planktic foraminifera from core 40) - Supplemental Material
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[img] Image (JPEG) (Extended Data Fig. 5: Small and regular-sized nannofossils in the transitional unit) - Supplemental Material
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[img] Image (JPEG) (Extended Data Fig. 6: Relative abundances of major Maastrichtian calcareous nannoplankton) - Supplemental Material
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[img] Image (JPEG) (Extended Data Table 1 ^3He data) - Supplemental Material
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[img] PDF (file contains Helium Isotope Age Model, Age Interpretations and References) - Supplemental Material
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[img] PDF - Supplemental Material
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[img] MS Excel (Supplementary Table S1—Foraminifer abundance data in the study interval) - Supplemental Material
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[img] MS Excel (Supplementary Table S2—Calcareous nannoplankton abundance data in the study interval) - Supplemental Material
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[img] MS Excel (Supplementary Table S3—I/Ca data in the study interval) - Supplemental Material
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The Cretaceous/Palaeogene mass extinction eradicated 76% of species on Earth. It was caused by the impact of an asteroid on the Yucatán carbonate platform in the southern Gulf of Mexico 66 million years ago, forming the Chicxulub impact crater. After the mass extinction, the recovery of the global marine ecosystem—measured as primary productivity—was geographically heterogeneous; export production in the Gulf of Mexico and North Atlantic–western Tethys was slower than in most other regions taking 300 thousand years (kyr) to return to levels similar to those of the Late Cretaceous period. Delayed recovery of marine productivity closer to the crater implies an impact-related environmental control, such as toxic metal poisoning, on recovery times. If no such geographic pattern exists, the best explanation for the observed heterogeneity is a combination of ecological factors—trophic interactions, species incumbency and competitive exclusion by opportunists—and ‘chance’. The question of whether the post-impact recovery of marine productivity was delayed closer to the crater has a bearing on the predictability of future patterns of recovery in anthropogenically perturbed ecosystems. If there is a relationship between the distance from the impact and the recovery of marine productivity, we would expect recovery rates to be slowest in the crater itself. Here we present a record of foraminifera, calcareous nannoplankton, trace fossils and elemental abundance data from within the Chicxulub crater, dated to approximately the first 200 kyr of the Palaeocene. We show that life reappeared in the basin just years after the impact and a high-productivity ecosystem was established within 30 kyr, which indicates that proximity to the impact did not delay recovery and that there was therefore no impact-related environmental control on recovery. Ecological processes probably controlled the recovery of productivity after the Cretaceous/Palaeogene mass extinction and are therefore likely to be important for the response of the ocean ecosystem to other rapid extinction events.

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Lowery, Christopher M.0000-0002-0101-4397
Farley, Kenneth A.0000-0002-7846-7546
Alternate Title:Rapid Recovery of Life At Ground Zero of the End Cretaceous Mass Extinction
Additional Information:© 2018 Macmillan Publishers Limited, part of Springer Nature. Received: 27 October 2017; Accepted: 3 April 2018; Published online 30 May 2018. This research used samples and data provided by the International Ocean Discovery Program (IODP). IODP Expedition 364 was jointly funded by the European Consortium for Ocean Research Drilling (ECORD) and International Continental Drilling Program (ICDP), with contributions and logistical support from the Yucatán State Government and Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México (UNAM). We thank T. Cayton for assistance with crushing and washing samples; S. Dameron, R. Moura de Mello and M. Leckie for helpful discussions on benthic foraminifer taxonomy; J. Maner for assistance with the UT ESEM laboratory and R. Martindale for assistance with petrographic microscope imaging. We are particularly grateful for assistance of the staff of the IODP Core Repository in Bremen, Germany for their assistance taking these samples and running shipboard analyses. The authors acknowledge Post-Expedition Awards from the US Science Support Program for C.M.L. and T.J.B., NSF OCE 1737351, and NASA NNX16AJ60G. Funding for F.J.R.-T. was provided by Project CGL2015-66835-P (Secretaría de Estado de I+D+I, Spain), and Scientific Excellence Unit UCE-2016-05 (Universidad de Granada). Author Contributions: All authors participated in sampling and data collection offshore and/or onshore during IODP–ICDP Expedition 364. C.M.L., T.J.B., F.J.R.-T., H.J. and J.S. collected and analysed microfossil data, M.T.W. provided detailed sedimentology, and J.D.O., P.C. and K.F. collected trace element, X-ray fluorescence and He isotope data, respectively. All authors contributed to writing and/or editing of the manuscript. The authors declare no competing interests. Reporting summary: Further information on experimental design is available in the Nature Research Reporting Summary linked to this paper. Data availability: X-ray fluorescence data have previously been published39 and are available online ( All other data supporting the findings of this study are available within the paper and its Supplementary Information. Nature thanks B. Huber and the other anonymous reviewer(s) for their contribution to the peer review of this work.
Funding AgencyGrant Number
European Consortium for Ocean Research Drilling (ECORD)UNSPECIFIED
International Continental Drilling ProgramUNSPECIFIED
Yucatán State GovernmentUNSPECIFIED
Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México (UNAM)UNSPECIFIED
Secretaría de Estado de Investigación, Desarrollo e InnovaciónCGL2015-66835-P
Universidad de GranadaUCE-2016-05
Issue or Number:7709
Record Number:CaltechAUTHORS:20180322-124636829
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Usage Policy:No commercial reproduction, distribution, display or performance rights in this work are provided.
ID Code:85416
Deposited By: Katherine Johnson
Deposited On:01 Jun 2018 20:38
Last Modified:03 Oct 2019 19:30

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