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Press-pulse; a general theory of mass extinction?

Nan Crystal Arens and Ian D. West
Press-pulse; a general theory of mass extinction?
Paleobiology (2008) 34 (4): 456-471


Previous discussions of mass extinction mechanisms generally focused on circumstances unique to each event. However, some have proposed that extensive volcanism combined with bolide impact may offer a general mechanism of mass extinction. To test this hypothesis we compared generic extinction percentages for 73 stages or substages of the Mesozoic and Cenozoic. We found that the highest frequency of intervals with elevated extinction occurred when continental flood basalt volcanism and bolide impact co-occurred. In contrast, neither volcanism nor impact alone yielded statistically elevated extinction frequencies. Although the magnitude of extinction was uncorrelated with the size of the associated flood basalt or impact structure, crater diameter did correlate with extinction percentage when volcanism and impact coincided. Despite this result, case-by-case analysis showed that the volcanism-impact hypothesis alone cannot explain all intervals of elevated extinction. Continental flood volcanism and impact share important ecological features with other proposed extinction mechanisms. Impacts, like marine anoxic incursions, are pulse disturbances that are sudden and catastrophic, and cause extensive mortality. Volcanism, like climate and sea level change, is a press disturbance that alters community composition by placing multigenerational stress on ecosystems. We propose that the coincidence of press and pulse events, not merely volcanism and impact, is required to produce the greatest episodes of dying in Phanerozoic history.

ISSN: 0094-8373
EISSN: 1938-5331
Serial Title: Paleobiology
Serial Volume: 34
Serial Issue: 4
Title: Press-pulse; a general theory of mass extinction?
Affiliation: Hobart and William Smith Colleges, Department of Geoscience, Geneva, NY, United States
Pages: 456-471
Published: 2008
Text Language: English
Publisher: Paleontological Society, Lawrence, KS, United States
References: 161
Accession Number: 2009-003315
Categories: General paleontology
Document Type: Serial
Bibliographic Level: Analytic
Annotation: Includes 3 appendices; NSF Grant EAR0241190
Illustration Description: illus. incl. 1 table
Country of Publication: United States
Secondary Affiliation: GeoRef, Copyright 2017, American Geosciences Institute. Abstract, Copyright, The Paleontological Society. Reference includes data from GeoScienceWorld, Alexandria, VA, United States
Update Code: 200902
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