Cretaceous climate, volcanism, impacts, and biotic effects

Gerta Keller

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129 Scopus citations


Cretaceous volcanic activities (LIPs and CFBPs) appear to have had relatively minor biotic effects, at least at the generic level. Major biotic stress during the Cretaceous was associated with OAEs and related to nutrient availability largely from weathering, greenhouse warming, drowning of platform areas, and volcanism. The biotic effects of OAEs were often dramatic at the species level, causing the extinction of larger specialized and heavily calcified planktonic foraminifera (rotaliporid extinction) and nannoconids (nannoconid crises), the temporary disappearances of other larger species, and the rapid increase in r-selected small and thin-walled species, such as the low oxygen tolerant heterohelicids and radially elongated taxa among planktic foraminifera and thin walled nannofossils. Biotic diversity increased during cool climates, particularly during the late Campanian and Maastrichtian, reaching maximum diversity during the middle Maastrichtian. High biotic stress conditions began during greenhouse warming and Deccan volcanism about 400 ky before the K-T boundary; it reduced abundances of large specialized tropical planktic foraminiferal species and endangered their survival. By K-T time, renewed Deccan volcanism combined with a large impact probably triggered the demise of this already extinction prone species group. Evidence from NE Mexico, Texas, and the Chicxulub crater itself indicates that this 170 km-diameter crater predates the K-T boundary by ∼300,000 years and caused no species extinctions. The Chicxulub impact, therefore, can no longer be considered a direct cause for the K-T mass extinction. However, the K-T mass extinction is closely associated with a global Ir anomaly, which is considered too large, too widespread, and too concentrated in a thin layer to have originated from volcanic activity, leaving another large impact as the most likely source. This suggests that a second still unknown larger impact may have triggered the K-T mass extinction.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)754-771
Number of pages18
JournalCretaceous Research
Issue number5-6
StatePublished - Oct 2008

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Palaeontology


  • Biotic effects
  • Cretaceous
  • Impacts
  • Mass extinctions
  • Volcanism


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