Research Article

U/Pb Zircon Geochronology and Tempo of the End-Permian Mass Extinction

Science  15 May 1998:
Vol. 280, Issue 5366, pp. 1039-1045
DOI: 10.1126/science.280.5366.1039

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Abstract

The mass extinction at the end of the Permian was the most profound in the history of life. Fundamental to understanding its cause is determining the tempo and duration of the extinction. Uranium/lead zircon data from Late Permian and Early Triassic rocks from south China place the Permian-Triassic boundary at 251.4 ± 0.3 million years ago. Biostratigraphic controls from strata intercalated with ash beds below the boundary indicate that the Changhsingian pulse of the end-Permian extinction, corresponding to the disappearance of about 85 percent of marine species, lasted less than 1 million years. At Meishan, a negative excursion in δ13C at the boundary had a duration of 165,000 years or less, suggesting a catastrophic addition of light carbon.

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