Previous studies of the end-Permian mass extinction have established that it was geologically rapid, but condensed sections have made it difficult to establish the exact timing of the extinction relative to fluctuations in the ocean carbon cycle, oxygen levels, and temperature. Integrated high-precision U-Pb geochronology, biostratigraphy, and chemostratigraphy from a highly expanded section at Penglaitan, Guangxi, South China reveal a sudden end-Permian mass extinction that occurred at 251.939 ± 0.031 Ma, which is temporally coincident with the extinction recorded in Bed 25 of the Meishan section. Despite the significantly expanded nature of the section and extensive collecting of more than ten major marine fossil groups, there is no evidence of a decline of biotic diversity prior to the extinction interval and no Permian-type species survive the extinction at this location. Fossil range data suggest a nearly instantaneous extinction at the top of a narrow stratigraphic interval limited to 31 ± 31 k.y. The extinction was preceded by and/or accompanied by fluctuations in δ13Ccarb and δ13Corg of 2−3‰, and 3−5 °C in seawater temperature. A larger, more rapid seawater temperature rise of 6−8 °C immediately followed the extinction level at Penglaitan. The extinction is spatially associated with a thick unit of tuff and tuffaceous sandstones (Bed 141) indicating massive pyroclastic input. It is correlative with an ash layer (Bed 25) in the deeper water setting at Meishan, where some Permian-type organisms survived the extinction. Our study reveals that the survivability of Permian taxa after the major extinction pulse is variable and dependent upon the severity of environmental perturbation in different sedimentary settings. The sudden extinction may fit a scenario in which the onset of Siberian Traps and South China intensive volcanism ∼420 k.y. before the extinction may have diminished the ecological resilience of communities and reduced ecological functions with little change in diversity. In such an environmentally stressed condition, a single environmental disturbance could trigger the sudden collapse of global ecosystems.
A sudden end-Permian mass extinction in South China
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Shu-Zhong Shen, Jahandar Ramezani, Jun Chen, Chang-Qun Cao, Douglas H. Erwin, Hua Zhang, Lei Xiang, Shane D. Schoepfer, Charles M. Henderson, Quan-Feng Zheng, Samuel A. Bowring, Yue Wang, Xian-Hua Li, Xiang-Dong Wang, Dong-Xun Yuan, Yi-Chun Zhang, Lin Mu, Jun Wang, Ya-Sheng Wu; A sudden end-Permian mass extinction in South China. GSA Bulletin doi: https://doi.org/10.1130/B31909.1
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