Abstract

Coeval records of ocean, atmosphere, and terrestrial change are crucial to understanding the pattern and causes of global mass extinction across the Permian-Triassic boundary (PTB). However, relationships among changes in different settings remain largely unclear, primarily due to the challenges associated with the correlation among disparate records. Here we compare marine carbon isotopic records with marine and terrestrial environmental and biotic events recorded in sediments from the Meishan PTB section of south China. Time-scaled carbonate carbon isotopes exhibit two gradual major shifts across the PTB at Meishan, and these are duplicable elsewhere around the Tethys Ocean. The two shifts are associated with two episodes of enhanced terrestrial weathering indicated by an increased abundance of 13C-enriched moretanes relative to hopanes and an elevated abundance of black carbon fragments. Key marine events previously reported for the PTB, including photic zone euxinia, faunal mass extinction, and cyanobacterial expansion, also occur as two episodes, coinciding with both of the progressive shifts to negative δ13C values and enhanced weathering. The temporal sequence of the duplicable events suggests that the biotic crisis was a consequence of prolonged and episodic changes in the marine and continental systems, and argues against an extraterrestrial impact as the main cause.

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