Cretaceous-Tertiary Mass Extinction in Marginal and Open Marine Environments: Texas, U.S.A., and Tunisia

TitleCretaceous-Tertiary Mass Extinction in Marginal and Open Marine Environments: Texas, U.S.A., and Tunisia
Publication TypeBook Chapter
Year of Publication2011
AuthorsKeller, G
Book TitleThe End-Cretaceous Mass Extinction and the Chicxulub Impact in Texas
VolumeNo. 100
EditionSEPM, Special Publication
PublisherSEPM (Society for Sedimentary Geology)
ISBN Number978-1-56576-308-1
KeywordsChicxulub impact, d13C shift, Depositional environment, Evolution, high stress, Ir anomaly, KT Mass Extinction, Sandstone complex, Sea level, Shallow Environment, Texas, Tunisia. Cretaceous-Tertiary

The Cretaceous-Tertiary boundary (KTB) sequences along the Brazos River, Texas, U.S.A., have been controversial for over two decades. At issue is whether the KTB and the mass extinction should be placed at the base of a sandstone complex based on the presence of Chicxulub impact spherules or at the mass extinction. This issue goes to the very core of the KTB controversy – did the Chicxulub impact cause the KTB mass extinction? Faunal, stable isotope, platinum group elements (PGEs), and lithological analyses of six Brazos cores and outcrop sections, and comparison of these data with the Elles, Tunisia, parastratotype shed empirical light on these issues. The KTB is well marked by the mass extinction of planktic foraminifera, the first appearance of Danian species, and the δ13C negative shift, which occurs up to 1 m above the sandstone complex that contains two to three impact spherule layers at its base. There is no Ir anomaly at the KTB and mass extinction, but minor Ir enrichments are present in condensed intervals within and slightly above the sandstone complex. Clasts at the base of the sandstone complex contain impact spherules that reveal earlier deposition, lithification, erosion and redeposition. The Chicxulub impact thus predates not only the KTB, but also the sandstone complex. A yellow clay layer consisting of altered impact glass 45-60 cm below the sandstone complex (zone CF1) may represent the original Chicxulub impact ejecta fallout.

 The mass extinction pattern in the Brazos sections appears gradual or progressive compared with patterns documented from open-ocean environments. This is largely the result of high sediment accumulation rates in inner-neritic depositional settings coupled with the sea-level fall that culminated with deposition of the sandstone complex. Comparison of various extinction parameters, such as overall species richness, species abundances, life strategies, and separation into opportunists vs. specialists reveals that the shallow Brazos environment excluded the specialized larger and deeper dwelling species (~40%) that suffered the most abrupt mass extinction at the KTB. The Brazos extinction pattern thus reflects the mass extinction in the most hardy and environmentally most tolerant assemblages, which include several KTB survivors. Similar patterns are observed in shallow-water environments of southern Tunisia, Egypt, Denmark and Argentina. These data strongly show that the Chicxulub impact predates the KTB and caused no species extinctions at the KTB or at the earlier time of the impact.   PDF