University of Cambridge > > Department of Earth Sciences Seminars (downtown) > Triggering of the largest Deccan eruptions by the Chicxulub impact OR What really killed the dinosaurs?

Triggering of the largest Deccan eruptions by the Chicxulub impact OR What really killed the dinosaurs?

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The disappearance of the dinosaurs along with 70% of species in the fossil record about 66 million years ago (Cretaceous-Paleogene Boundary, or KPB ) is widely attributed to the Chicxulub impact in Yucatán, Mexico. However, at the same time, one of the largest volcanic eruptions in recent Earth history, the Deccan Traps, was underway in India — a coincidence that has confounded geologists for three decades, and is all the more remarkable since the four most recent mass extinctions all correspond closely in time to continental flood basalt eruptions. Multiple lines of evidence, including new high precision radioisotopic dating work, suggest that Chicxulub, the KPB , and the onset of by far the most massive phase of Deccan volcanism all occurred within a brief time interval of 11 Chicxulub impact accelerated the Deccan Traps eruptions by a factor of ~3 right at KPB time. Causal links aside, it remains difficult to determine whether the KPB mass extinction was caused primarily by the impact itself or by the main-phase (impact-triggered?) Deccan eruptions, since both events would have affected the environment in similar ways. Much more work is needed to better understand the physical mechanisms, emplacement history, and environmental effects of the Deccan Traps flood basalts, and their possible relation to the end-Cretaceous mass extinction.

Richards, M.A., Alvarez, W., Self, S., Karlstrom, L., Renne, P, Manga, M., Sprain,C.J., Smit,J, Vander-kluysen, L. & Gibson, S.A. (2015). Triggering of the largest Deccan eruptions by the Chicxulub impact. Geological Society of America Bulletin. doi: 10.1130/B31167.1

Renne, P.R., Sprain, C.J., Richards, M.A., Self, S., Vanderkluysen, L. & Pande, K. (2015). State shift in Deccan volcanism at the Cretaceous-Paleogene boundary, possibly induced by impact. Science 350,76-78 DOI :10.1126/science.aac7549

This talk is part of the Department of Earth Sciences Seminars (downtown) series.

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