Late Cretaceous to early Paleocene climate and sea-level fluctuations: The Tunisian record

Thierry Adatte, Gerta Keller, Wolfgang Stinnesbeck

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Climate and sea-level fluctuations across the Cretaceous-Tertiary (K-T) transition in Tunisia were examined based on bulk rock and clay mineralogies, biostratigraphy and lithology in five sections (El Melah, El Kef, Elles, Ain Settara and Seldja) spanning from open marine to shallow inner neritic environments. Late Campanian to early Danian trends examined at El Kef and Elles indicate an increasingly more humid climate associated with sea-level fluctuations and increased detrital influx that culminates at the K-T transition. This long-term trend in increasing humidity and runoff in the Tethys region is associated with middle and high latitude cooling. Results of short-term changes across the K-T transition indicate a sea-level lowstand in the latest Maastrichtian about 25-100 ka below the K-T boundary with the regression marked by increased detrital influx at El Kef and Elles and a short hiatus at Ain Settara. A rising sea-level at the end of the Maastrichtian is expressed at Elles and El Kef by deposition of a foraminiferal packstone. A flooding surface and condensed sedimentation mark the K-T boundary clay which is rich in terrestrial organic matter. The P0-P1a transition is marked by a sea-level lowstand corresponding to a short hiatus at Ain Settara where most of P0 is missing and a period of non-deposition and erosion in the lower part of P1a (64.95 Ma). At Seldja, P0 and possibly the topmost part of CF1 are missing. These sea-level fluctuations are associated with maximum humidity. These data suggest that in Tunisia, long-term environmental stresses during the last 500 ka before the K-T boundary and continuing into the early Danian are primarily related to climate and sea-level fluctuations. Within this long-term climatic trend the pronounced warm and humid event within the latest Maastrichtian Zone CF1 may be linked to greenhouse conditions induced by Deccan volcanism. The absence of any significant clay mineral variations at or near the K-T boundary and Ir anomaly suggests that the bolide impact had a relatively incidental short-term effect on climate in the Tethys region.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)165-196
Number of pages32
JournalPalaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology
Issue number3-4
StatePublished - Feb 28 2002

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Oceanography
  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Earth-Surface Processes
  • Palaeontology


  • Bulk
  • Clay minerals
  • Climate fluctuations
  • Geochemistry
  • K-T boundary
  • Maastrichtian
  • Organic matter
  • Sea-level
  • Tunisia
  • Upper Campanian


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