Mass extinction at the Triassic-Jurassic (Tr-J) boundary occurred about the same time (200 Ma) as one of the largest volcanic eruptive events known, that which characterized the Central Atlantic magmatic province. Organic carbon isotope data from the UK and Greenland demonstrate that changes in flora and fauna from terrestrial and marine environments occurred synchronously with a light carbon isotope excursion, and that this happened earlier than the Tr-J boundary marked by ammonites in the UK. The results also point toward synchronicity between extinctions and eruption of the first Central Atlantic magmatic province lavas, suggesting a causal link between loss of taxa and the very earliest eruptive phases. The initial isotopic excursion potentially provides a widely correlatable marker for the base of the Jurassic. A temporary return to heavier values followed, but relatively light carbon dominated the shallow oceanic and atmospheric reservoirs for at least 600 k.y.