Abstract

We present a detailed study of the trace element and stable isotope geochemistry, sedimentology, and fossil distributions in two Avalanche Lake (AV4B, AV1) Ordovician–Silurian boundary sections in the Selwyn Basin. Trilobites and conodonts indicate a profound extinction at the end of the Ordovician, which is constrained stratigraphically within a <60 cm interval at AV4B. Facies analysis suggests that the extinction interval coincides with the maximum shallowing (low stand of sea level), which was probably caused by a galcioeustatic regression induced by the Late Ordovician Gondwanan glaciation. The extinction crisis is also signalled by the change in carbonate δ13C: a sudden "Strangelove ocean" δ13C excursion (>3‰ in magnitude) is recorded in the extinction interval. Iridium abundances (<0.051 ppb) in the extinction interval are low and fail to provide evidence for an impact. The highest Ir abundance is found to be associated with reduced sedimentation in a condensed horizon. Cerium anomalies indicate a short period of basin ventilation in the otherwise anoxic Selwyn Basin. The extinction occurred during the time of this basin ventilation, which was probably caused by the cold climate during the glaciation. The ventilation may have triggered upwelling of the deep water through vertical advection, bringing up toxic material, poisoning the upper-water photic zone, and causing the extinction.

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