Abstract

Numerical calibration of the Late Triassic stages is arguably the most controversial issue in Mesozoic stratigraphy, despite its importance for assessing mechanisms of environmental perturbations and associated biologic consequences preceding the end-Triassic mass extinction. Here we report new chemical abrasion–isotope dilution–thermal ionization mass spectrometry zircon U-Pb dates for volcanic ash beds within the Aramachay Formation of the Pucara Group in northern Peru that place precise constraints on the age of the Norian-Rhaetian boundary (NRB) and the duration of the Rhaetian. The sampled ash bed–bearing interval is located just above the last occurrence of the bivalve Monotis subcircularis, placing this stratigraphic sequence in the uppermost Norian, perhaps ranging into the earliest Rhaetian. Zircon U-Pb dates of ash beds constrain the deposition age of this interval to be between 205.70 ± 0.15 Ma and 205.30 ± 0.14 Ma, providing precise constraints on the age of the NRB. Combined with previously published zircon U-Pb dates for ash beds bracketing the Triassic-Jurassic boundary, we estimate a duration of 4.14 ± 0.39 m.y. for the Rhaetian. This ends a prolonged controversy about the duration of this stage and has fundamental implications for the rates of paleoenvironmental deterioration that culminated in the end-Triassic mass extinction.

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