Comparative biogeographic analysis of planktic foraminiferal survivorship across the Cretaceous/Tertiary (K/T) boundary

Norman MacLeod, Gerta Keller

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76 Scopus citations


It is now widely recognized that a large number of Cretaceous planktic foraminiferal species are commonly found associated with fully Danian faunas in many K/T boundary sections and deep-sea cores. This “Cretaceous” fauna has traditionally been regarded as representing the reworking of older Cretaceous sediments into younger strata, though recent isotopic data from some species indicates that, at least in these instances, the reworking hypothesis is false. To further test this reworking hypothesis the biogeography of this “Cretaceous” fauna is compared to the underlying uppermost Maastrichtian biogeography and to the biogeography of lowermost Danian planktic foraminiferal faunas. Results show that there is no regular decline in species richness, extinction, or faunal co-occurrence values for this “Cretaceous” fauna at progressively higher (=younger) Danian stratigraphic horizons. Moreover, there is no compelling association between the stratigraphic persistence of this “Cretaceous” fauna and shallow depositional settings. Instead, this fauna is characterized by: (1) a close (and predictive) association between “Cretaceous” and indigenous Danian species richness values throughout the lower Danian, (2) a close numerical and geographic correspondence between Danian speciation and the disappearance of “Cretaceous” species from the Danian fossil record, and (3) a pronounced similarity between changes in the general biogeographic structures of the “Cretaceous” and associated Danian faunas throughout the study interval. These data suggest that the K/T planktic foraminiferal extinction event exhibited a marked geographic structure with low and middle latitude faunas experiencing differentially high extinction rates in the lowermost Danian zones PO and P1a and high latitude survivor faunas persisting more or less unchanged into the overlying zone, P1b and P1c. Taken together, these results challenge the traditional concept of an instantaneous uppermost Cretaceous planktic foraminiferal mass extinction and its proposed causal connection to bolide imoact.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)143-177
Number of pages35
Issue number2
StatePublished - 1994

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Ecology
  • General Agricultural and Biological Sciences
  • Palaeontology


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