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Many workers consider the Cretaceous-Paleogene extinction the archetypal catastrophic pulse event caused solely by the Chicxulub bolide impact. However, based on a global scale analysis of marine animals, the Cretaceous-Paleogene boundary is a candidate for an extinction enhanced by the coincidence of press and pulse disturbances. We make a preliminary test of key predictions of the press-pulse hypothesis using palynological data. We document a local palynological extinction of 21% at the Cretaceous-Paleogene boundary, which is consistent with extinction rates of 15% to 30% at other localities in the Hell Creek type area and throughout North America. We also find a decline in the number of dicot angiosperm pollen taxa between −3.5 m and −2.5 m below the boundary. We document a low-palynospecies-richness interval between −1.4 m and −1.0 m that includes extirpation, but not extinction, of some palynospecies. These changes in species richness are not correlated with changes in depositional style or pollen preservation, indicating that they may represent a biological rather than entirely taphonomic signal. Review and reanalysis of previously published data from other localities in the western interior of North America suggest similar declines in species richness within approximately the same stratigraphic interval. However, many of the species absent during the low-species-richness interval reappeared before the Cretaceous-Paleogene boundary, suggesting changes in community structure and composition before the terminal Cretaceous event—a key prediction of the press-pulse hypothesis—rather than gradual extinction in the latest Cretaceous.

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