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      High-precision timeline for Earth's most severe extinction.

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          Abstract

          The end-Permian mass extinction was the most severe loss of marine and terrestrial biota in the last 542 My. Understanding its cause and the controls on extinction/recovery dynamics depends on an accurate and precise age model. U-Pb zircon dates for five volcanic ash beds from the Global Stratotype Section and Point for the Permian-Triassic boundary at Meishan, China, define an age model for the extinction and allow exploration of the links between global environmental perturbation, carbon cycle disruption, mass extinction, and recovery at millennial timescales. The extinction occurred between 251.941 ± 0.037 and 251.880 ± 0.031 Mya, an interval of 60 ± 48 ka. Onset of a major reorganization of the carbon cycle immediately precedes the initiation of extinction and is punctuated by a sharp (3‰), short-lived negative spike in the isotopic composition of carbonate carbon. Carbon cycle volatility persists for ∼500 ka before a return to near preextinction values. Decamillenial to millennial level resolution of the mass extinction and its aftermath will permit a refined evaluation of the relative roles of rate-dependent processes contributing to the extinction, allowing insight into postextinction ecosystem expansion, and establish an accurate time point for evaluating the plausibility of trigger and kill mechanisms.

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          Most cited references 56

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          A low-contamination method for hydrothermal decomposition of zircon and extraction of U and Pb for isotopic age determinations

           T.E Krogh (1973)
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            Climate Impact of Late Quaternary Equatorial Pacific Sea Surface Temperature Variations

             D. W. Lea (2000)
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              The Chicxulub asteroid impact and mass extinction at the Cretaceous-Paleogene boundary.

              The Cretaceous-Paleogene boundary approximately 65.5 million years ago marks one of the three largest mass extinctions in the past 500 million years. The extinction event coincided with a large asteroid impact at Chicxulub, Mexico, and occurred within the time of Deccan flood basalt volcanism in India. Here, we synthesize records of the global stratigraphy across this boundary to assess the proposed causes of the mass extinction. Notably, a single ejecta-rich deposit compositionally linked to the Chicxulub impact is globally distributed at the Cretaceous-Paleogene boundary. The temporal match between the ejecta layer and the onset of the extinctions and the agreement of ecological patterns in the fossil record with modeled environmental perturbations (for example, darkness and cooling) lead us to conclude that the Chicxulub impact triggered the mass extinction.
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                Author and article information

                Journal
                Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. U.S.A.
                Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
                1091-6490
                0027-8424
                Mar 4 2014
                : 111
                : 9
                Affiliations
                [1 ] Department of Earth, Atmospheric, and Planetary Sciences, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, MA 02139.
                Article
                1317692111
                10.1073/pnas.1317692111
                24516148

                evolution, geochronology

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