Abstract

The hypothesized collapse in primary productivity associated with the Cretaceous-Paleogene (K-Pg) mass extinction would have been particularly severe on suspension feeders dependent on phytoplankton. Previous research on the ecological dynamics of erect bryozoans in the Danish Basin supported the phytoplankton crash hypothesis in showing a major postextinction increase in the skeletal biomass of cyclostome bryozoans relative to the more nutrient-demanding cheilostome bryozoans. New data on the ecological dynamics between these two bryozoan clades across the K-Pg boundary are provided to determine whether the postextinction cyclostome spike is also evident in encrusting bryozoans and over a greater geographical area. Changes across the K-Pg were quantified in encrusting bryozoans using three metrics: (1) abundance of colonies; (2) area of substrate covered; and (3) colony form. Data from the southeastern United States were added to those from Denmark to control for regional factors. Our analyses indicate a globally uniform change among encrusting bryozoans but without the strong postextinction cyclostome spike seen previously in Danish erect bryozoans. An increased proportion of sheet over runner cyclostome colonies was found in the lower Danian of Denmark and the southeastern United States, despite the expectation that runners with widely dispersed zooids should fare better in low nutrient conditions. Furthermore, weighed samples of erect bryozoans from the basal Danian of Maastricht (Netherlands) and the southeastern United States failed to reveal a strong cyclostome spike. These findings question the phytoplankton crash hypothesis, or at least the extent to which this kill mechanism influenced suspension feeders during the K-Pg mass extinction.

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