Life and death in the Chicxulub impact crater: a record of the Paleocene–Eocene Thermal Maximum
Thermal stress on the biosphere during the extreme warmth of the Paleocene–Eocene Thermal Maximum (PETM) was most severe at low latitudes, with sea surface temperatures at some localities exceeding the 35 C at which marine organisms experience heat stress. Relatively few equivalent terrestrial sections have been identified, and the response of land plants to this extreme heat is still poorly understood. Here, we present a new record of the PETM from the peak ring of the Chicxulub impact crater that has been identified based on nannofossil biostratigraphy, an acme of the dinoflagellate genus Apectodinium, and a negative carbon isotope excursion. Geochemical and microfossil proxies show that the PETM is marked by elevated TEXH 86-based sea surface temperatures (SSTs) averaging 37:8 C, an increase in terrestrial input and surface productivity, salinity stratification, and bottom water anoxia, with biomarkers for green and purple sulfur bacteria indicative of photic zone euxinia in the early part of the event. Pollen and plants spores in this core provide the first PETM floral assemblage described from Mexico, Central America, and the northern Caribbean. The source area was a diverse coastal shrubby tropical forest with a remarkably high abundance of fungal spores, indicating humid conditions. Thus, while seafloor anoxia devastated the benthic marine biota and dinoflagellate assemblages were heat-stressed, the terrestrial plant ecosystem thrived.
Climate of the Past, vol. 16, 1889–1899.
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