During the late Maastrichtian, DSDP Site 216 on Ninetyeast Ridge, Indian Ocean, passed over a mantle plume leading to volcanic eruptions, islands built to sea level, and catastrophic environmental conditions for planktic and benthic foraminifera. The biotic effects were severe, including dwarfing of all benthic and planktic species, a 90% reduction in species diversity, exclusion of all ecological specialists, near-absence of ecological generalists, and dominance of the disaster opportunist Guembelitria alternating with low O2-tolerant species. These faunal characteristics are identical to those of the K-T boundary mass extinction, except that the fauna recovered after Site 216 passed beyond the influence of mantle plume volcanism about 500 kyr before the K-T boundary. Similar biotic effects have been observed in Madagascar, Israel, and Egypt. The direct correlation between mantle plume volcanism and biotic effects on Ninetyeast Ridge and the similarity to the K-T mass extinction, which is generally attributed to a large impact, reveal that impacts and volcanism can cause similar environmental catastrophes. This raises the inevitable question: Are mass extinctions caused by impacts or mantle plume volcanism? The unequivocal correlation between intense volcanism and high-stress assemblages necessitates a review of current impact and mass extinction theories.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Geochemistry and Petrology