Abstract

Ongoing controversies surrounding the end-Triassic extinction highlight the need for identifying a causal mechanism leading to extinction. Bivalve data from Lombardia (Italy), Northern Calcareous Alps (Austria and Germany), and northwest Europe (England and Wales) provide the biologic signal of selective extinction to compare two competing extinction hypotheses: (1) sea-level change and associated anoxia and (2) reduced primary productivity. The end-Triassic extinction eliminated 71% of Lombardian species, 85% of northern alpine species, and 90% of northwest European species. The extinction was independent of body size and geographic distribution. With respect to living habits, species from the three regions show a significantly greater proportion of infaunal bivalve extinction. The greater survival of epifaunal bivalves is correlated to their more efficient feeding and suggests that the infaunal bivalves may not have been able to meet their nutritional requirements. This pattern of selective extinction is inconsistent with anoxia and/or sea-level change as a causal factor in which higher survival of infaunal detritus and filter feeders would be predicted. Instead, the pattern is consistent with a reduction of primary productivity. Several regional and global mechanisms, including bolide impact, would have been capable of altering primary productivity levels to affect the food sources for Late Triassic bivalves, thus leading to extinction.

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