PerspectiveGeochemistry

Impact and Extinction

Science  08 Feb 2013:
Vol. 339, Issue 6120, pp. 655-656
DOI: 10.1126/science.1233948

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Summary

During the past 540 million years, five major mass extinctions have occurred on Earth. Several of them have been linked to volcanic eruptions during the formation of large flood basalts (1, 2). However, the situation is not clearcut for the most recent mass extinction at the Cretaceous-Paleogene (K-Pg) boundary (∼66 million years ago), when nonavian dinosaurs became extinct. Around the time of the K-Pg boundary, a series of large eruptions formed the Deccan flood basalts. However, in 1980, Alvarez et al. (3) argued that the K-Pg boundary coincided with the impact of a large asteroid or comet. On page 684 of this issue, Renne et al. (4) provide new evidence that the age of Chicxulub asteroid impact and the K-Pg boundary coincide precisely.

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