The biotic effects of volcanism have long been the unknown factors in creating biotic stress, and the contribution of the Deccan volcanism to the K-T mass extinction remains largely unknown. Detailed studies of the volcanic-rich sediments of Indian Ocean Ninetyeast Ridge Sites 216 and 217 and Wharton Basin Site 212 reveal that the biotic effects of late Maastrichtian volcanism on planktic foraminifera and calcareous nannofossils are locally as severe as those of the K-T mass extinction. The biotic expressions of these high stress environments are characterized by the Lilliput effect, which includes reduced diversity by eliminating most K-strategy species, and reduction in specimen size (dwarfing), frequently to less than half their normal adult size of both r-strategy and surviving K-strategy species. In planktic foraminifera, the most extreme biotic stress results are nearly monospecific assemblages dominated by the disaster opportunist Guembelitria, similar to the aftermath of the K-T mass extinction. The first stage of improving environmental conditions results in dominance of dwarfed low oxygen tolerant Heterohelix species and the presence of a few small r-strategy species (Hedbergella, Globigerinelloides). Calcareous nannofossil assemblages show similar biotic stress signals with the dominance of Micula decussata, the disaster opportunist, and size reduction in the mean length of subordinate r-strategy species particularly in Arkhangelskiella cymbiformis and Watznaueria barnesiae. These impoverished and dwarfed late Maastrichtian assemblages appear to be the direct consequences of mantle plume volcanism and associated environmental changes, including high nutrient influx leading to eutrophic and mesotrophic waters, low oxygen in the water column and decreased watermass stratification.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
- Earth-Surface Processes
- Biotic effects
- High stress environments
- Indian Ocean Maastrichtian