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U-Pb geochronology of the Deccan Traps and relation to the end-Cretaceous mass extinction

Science  11 Dec 2015:

DOI: 10.1126/science.aaa0118

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Abstract

The Chicxulub asteroid impact (Mexico) and the eruption of the massive Deccan volcanic province (India) are two proposed causes of the end-Cretaceous mass extinction, which includes the demise of nonavian dinosaurs. Despite widespread acceptance of the impact hypothesis, the lack of a high-resolution eruption timeline for the Deccan basalts has prevented full assessment of their relationship to the mass extinction. Here we apply U-Pb zircon geochronology to Deccan rocks and show that the main phase of eruptions initiated ~250,000 years before the Cretaceous-Paleogene boundary and that >1.1 million km3 of basalt erupted in ~750,000 years. Our results are consistent with the hypothesis that the Deccan Traps contributed to the latest Cretaceous environmental change and biologic turnover that culminated in the marine and terrestrial mass extinctions.

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