Report

U-Pb constraints on pulsed eruption of the Deccan Traps across the end-Cretaceous mass extinction

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Science  22 Feb 2019:
Vol. 363, Issue 6429, pp. 862-866
DOI: 10.1126/science.aau2422

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  • A Dominant Role for The K-Pg Impact
    • Richard A. Kerr, Retired science writer, Retired, News Department, Science
    • Other Contributors:
      • Peter D. Ward, Paleontologist, Department of Biology, University of Washington

    A Dominant Role for
    The K-Pg Impact

    Contrary to the Perspective “Deciphering mass extinction triggers” (S. Burgess, 22 February 2019) commenting on this Report, the question of what wiped out 65% of species 66 million years ago has not become “a keen debate between two potential killers.” Massive volcanic eruptions may still be found to have played a role in the Cretaceous-Paleogene (K-Pg) mass extinction, but the large impact that struck at the geologic moment of extinction cannot be displaced as the primary trigger of that mass extinction.
    Radiometric dating, as reported in the same issue of Science (1, 2), has indeed been narrowing the apparent temporal gap between huge volcanic outbursts from the Deccan Traps of India and the impact of a 10-kilometer body into the Yucatan Peninsula of Mexico. But it has been specialists in paleontology, geochemistry, mineralogy, and stratigraphy who found long ago found that worldwide in the geologic record, debris from the impact coincides precisely with the disappearance of species lost in the mass extinction (3).

    From that coincidence, researchers inferred that species lost in the mass extinction disappeared in the same geologic instant in which the impact laid down its debris around the globe. All trophic and taxonomic levels were affected, from protozoans to single-celled plants and large marine animals. Just as clearly, this coincidence of impact and extinction is not an artifact of an imperfect fossil r...

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    Competing Interests: None declared.

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