End-Cretaceous Brachiopod Extinctions in the Chalk of Denmark

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Science  16 Mar 1984:
Vol. 223, Issue 4641, pp. 1174-1177
DOI: 10.1126/science.223.4641.1174


The results of a detailed study of the brachiopods of the most complete Cretaceous-Tertiary boundary in Denmark, Nye Kl∅v, show an extinction pattern for this marine invertebrate group compatible with that reported for pelagic foraminifera and coccoliths and with the impact scenario. The extinction is abrupt, coinciding with the Maastrichtian-Danian boundary. There is no warning in the form of decreasing density, decreasing diversity, or early extinction of specialized groups. The basal few meters of the Danian are almost devoid of brachiopods, and a Danian brachiopod fauna starts almost as abruptly as the Maastrichtian fauna disappeared. The new fauna is similar to the Maastrichtian as regards density and diversity, and at maximum six species are common to both stages. The northwest European Masstrichtian chalk is composed mainly of the remains of coccoliths and pelagic foraminifera. The mass extinction of these groups led to a total cessation of chalk production. The chalk is overlain by a thin clay bed deposited partly under anoxic conditions. This combination of anoxia and clay deposition coupled with a cessation of productivity led to the extinction of specialized groups such as the chalk brachiopods. The surviving species included forms that could survive in well-aerated shallow marine waters on substrates other than chalk.