The Cretaceous-Tertiary boundary transition in the Antarctic Ocean and its global implications

Gerta Keller

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Three Antarctic Ocean K/T boundary sequences from ODP Site 738C on the Kerguelen Plateau, ODP Site, 752B on Broken Ridge and ODP Site 690C on Maud Rise, Weddell Sea, have been analyzed for stratigraphic completeness and faunal turnover based on quantitative planktic foraminiferal studies. Results show that Site 738C, which has a laminated clay layer spanning the K/T boundary, is biostratigraphically complete with the earliest Tertiary Zones P0 and P1a present, but with short intrazonal hiatuses. Site 752B may be biostratigraphically complete and Site 690C has a hiatus at the K/T boundary with Zones P0 and P1a missing. Latest Cretaceous to earliest Tertiary planktic foraminiferal faunas from the Antarctic Ocean are cosmopolitan and similar to coeval faunas dominating in low, middle and northern high latitudes, although a few endemic species are present. This allows application of the current low and middle latitude zonation to Antarctic K/T boundary sequences. The most abundant endemic species is Chiloguembelina waiparaensis, which was believed to have evolved in the early Tertiary, but which apparently evolved as early as Chron 30N at Site 738C. Since this species is only rare in sediments of Site 690C in the Weddell Sea, this suggests that a watermass oceanographic barrier may have existed between the Indian and Atlantic Antarctic Oceans. The cosmopolitan nature of the dominant fauna began during the last 200,000 to 300,000 years of the Cretaceous and continued at least 300,000 years into the Tertiary. This indicates a long-term environmental crisis that led to gradual elimination of specialized forms and takeover by generalists tolerant of wide ranging temperature, oxygen, salinity and nutrient conditions. A few thousand years before the K/T boundary these generalists gradually declined in abundance and species became generally dwarfed due to increased environmental stress. There is no evidence of a sudden mass killing of the Cretaceous fauna associated with a bolide impact at the K/T boundary. Instead, the already declining Cretaceous taxa gradually disappear in the early Danian and the opportunistic survivor taxa (Ch. waiparaensis and Guembelitria cretacea) increase in relative abundance coincident with the evolution of the first new Tertiary species.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1-45
Number of pages45
JournalMarine Micropaleontology
Issue number1-3
StatePublished - Apr 1993

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Oceanography
  • Palaeontology


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