Disentangling the Hettangian carbon isotope record: Implications for the aftermath of the end-Triassic mass extinction

A. Bartolini, J. Guex, J. E. Spangenberg, B. Schoene, D. G. Taylor, U. Schaltegger, V. Atudorei

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This study provides an organic carbon stable isotope (δ 13Corg) record calibrated with detailed ammonite biostratigraphy, following the end-Triassic biological crisis. Precise correlation between this crucial fossil group and the δ13C org record is key to understanding feedbacks between biological and environmental events following mass extinction. The latest Triassic and Hettangian δ13Corg record shows several negative and positive excursions. The end-Triassic negative shift coinciding with the mass extinction interval is followed by a positive excursion in the earliest Hettangian Psiloceras spelae beds, which marks the onset of recovery in the marine ecosystem. This positive trend is interrupted by a second negative δ13Corg excursion in the P. pacificum beds related to a minor ammonite extinction event. This pattern of the δ 13Corg curve culminates in the uppermost Hettangian Angulata Zone major positive excursion. This indicates that both the ecosystem and the carbon cycle remained in a state of perturbation for at least 2 Ma, although the recovery of some pelagic taxa already began at the base of Jurassic. The early and late Hettangian positive δ13C org excursions have been confused in several recent papers. Here, we show that during the Hettangian there are indeed two distinct positive δ13Corg excursions. Phases of anoxia and further pulses of Central Atlantic Magmatic Province volcanism during the Hettangian might have inhibited the full recovery for that interval of time. The main Liasicus-Angulata organic positive CIE (carbon isotope excursion) during the Late Hettangian might be related to gradual decreasing of pCO2 due to protracted high organic burial, and coincides with a second phase of recovery, as indicated by a pulse of ammonoid diversification.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numberQ01007
JournalGeochemistry, Geophysics, Geosystems
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1 2012

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Geophysics
  • Geochemistry and Petrology


  • Triassic-Jurassic
  • biological crisis
  • carbon cycle
  • recovery
  • stable isotopes


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