The earliest Paleocene record of calcareous nannoplankton presents a unique opportunity to understand the evolutionary recovery of life from mass extinction. Nannoplankton were devastated at the Cretaceous/Paleogene boundary and their subsequent recovery can be studied in great detail because of their abundance in sediments, continuous stratigraphic occurrence, and near global distribution. Here we determine when and where new species of nannoplankton originated and how they dispersed following the Cretaceous/Paleogene mass extinction. Initially, we focus our efforts on North Pacific and South Atlantic deep sea sites with orbital age control to compare the precise timing and dynamics of the recovery between the locations. We then broaden our investigation to six sites from different basins and a variety of environments to study global patterns of the initial recovery. Our results show that many taxa in key Paleogene lineages originated in the North Pacific Ocean and that assemblages comprised primarily of new Paleogene taxa were not observed at other sites for several hundred thousand years. Survivors that were adapted to eutrophic post extinction conditions rapidly expanded in Southern Hemisphere sites where they dominated assemblages for most of the initial recovery. We therefore hypothesize that groups of survivors formed regionally incumbent assemblages in the Southern Hemisphere that limited diversification and dispersal of new Paleogene taxa. The end of survivor dominance correlates to the recovery of the biologic pump and subsequent decrease in surface ocean nutrient concentration 300–400 Kyr after the boundary. Only after survivors were removed did new Paleogene nannoplankton assemblages become abundant globally. Our results indicate that competition from regionally incumbent survivors was as an important control on the K/Pg recovery of nannoplankton.

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