Abstract:

Permian continental sequences from North China contain previously unrecognized episodes of plant radiation and elevated extinction. The earliest extinction, in the Lower Shihhotse Formation (Roadian, Guadalupian), records a 45% floral species loss and is tentatively correlated with global extinctions amongst dinocephalian reptiles. Two younger extinctions are dated by correlating the Illawara Reversal and palaeomagnetic polarity sequences from Shanxi Province against global palaeomagnetic history. Missing data from the Shanxi sequence are evaluated using a novel approach estimating likely maximum and minimum sequence changes that provide age estimates for post-Illawara events in North China. The second extinction in the middle Upper Shihhotse Formation is more significant and is dated to the mid-Capitanian, with a loss of 56% of plant species coinciding with two phases of volcanism of the Emeishan Large Igneous Province in South China, previously linked to the mid-Capitanian marine mass extinction. The youngest extinction in the upper Upper Shihhotse Formation (late Capitanian to mid-Wuchapingian) is catastrophic and represents the end of range in the sequence. Changes in sedimentary facies suggest it to be related to global climatic warming and drying. Other viable causal mechanisms for the extinction episodes include plate motion and collision, global climate change, volcanism and biological competition.

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