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Two independent calculations suggest that temperate marine zooplankton would starve to death relatively quickly if phytoplankton photosynthesis were to cease. A sudden atmospheric darkening, blocking 99% of sunlight, as might accompany the impact of a large meteor, would be sufficient to stop global photosynthesis. An equation derived from basic principles, solved using North Sea plankton data, gives 9–41 days as the duration of the shortest atmospheric darkening needed to initiate a zooplankton starvation crisis during the spring season. An adaptation of a simple plankton model gives outer limits ranging from 104 days in January to 33 days in July and August for critical blackout durations. The durations and severity of critical atmospheric darkenings are well within the plausible limits established by other workers, and such an event cannot be discounted as a cause of the widespread terminal Cretaceous plankton extinction.

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