International Journal of Earth Sciences

, Volume 107, Issue 2, pp 601–606 | Cite as

Comparison of the ages of large-body impacts, flood-basalt eruptions, ocean-anoxic events and extinctions over the last 260 million years: a statistical study

  • Michael R. RampinoEmail author
  • Ken Caldeira
Original Paper


Many studies have linked mass extinction events with the catastrophic effects of large-body impacts and flood-basalt eruptions, sometimes as competing explanations. We find that the ages of at least 10 out of a total of 11 documented extinction events over the last 260 Myr (12 out of 13 if we include two lesser extinction events) coincide, within errors, with the best-known ages of either a large impact crater (≥70 km diameter) or a continental flood-basalt eruption. The null hypothesis that this could occur by chance can be rejected with very high confidence (>99.999%). The ages of large impact craters correlate with recognized extinction events at ~36 (two impacts), 66, 145 and 215 Myr ago (and possibly an event at ~168 Myr ago), and the ages of continental flood basalts correlate with extinctions at 66, ~94, ~116, 183, 201, 252 and 259 Myr ago (and possibly at ~133 Myr ago). Furthermore, at least 7 periods of widespread anoxia in the oceans of the last 260 Myr coincide with the ages of flood-basalt eruptions (with 99.999% confidence), and are coeval with extinctions, suggesting causal connections. These statistical relationships argue that most mass extinction events are related to climatic catastrophes produced by the largest impacts and large-volume continental flood-basalt eruptions.


Mass extinctions Large body impacts Flood basalts 



Support was provided by an NYU Research Challenge Fund Grant to M.R.R. Conversations with V. Courtillot, H. Jenkyns, C. Koeberl, L. Melluso, S. Self, T. Volk, and P. Wignall were helpful. We thank John Wolff and two anonymous reviewers for extensive and detailed reviews, which greatly improved the manuscript. Jenn Deutscher drafted the figure.


  1. Alvarez W (2003) Comparing the evidence relevant to impact and flood basalts at times of major mass extinctions. Astrobiology 3:153–161CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Archibald JD et al (2010) Cretaceous extinctions: multiple causes. Science 358:973CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Arens NC, West ID (2008) Press-pulse: a general theory of mass extinction? Paleobiology 34:456–471CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Black BA, Lamarque J-F, Shields CA, Elkins-Tanton LT, Kiehl JT (2014) Acid rain and ozone depletion from pulsed Siberian Traps magmatism. Geology 42:67–70CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Bond DPG, Grasby SE (2017) On the causes of mass extinctions. Palaeogeogr Palaeoclimatol Palaeoecol 478:3–29CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Bond DPG, Wignall PB (2014) Large igneous provinces and mass extinctions: an update. Geol Soc Am Spec Pap. doi: 10.1130/2014.2505(02) Google Scholar
  7. Bond DPG, Wignall PB, Joachimski MM, Sun Y, Savov I, Grasby SE, Beauchamp B, Blomeier DPG (2015) An abrupt extinction in the Middle Permian (Capitanian) of the Boreal Realm (Spitsbergen) and its link to anoxia and acidification. Geol Soc Am Bull 27:1411–1421CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Bonis NR, Ruhl M, Kurschner WM (2010) Climate change driven black shale deposition during the end-Triassic in the western Tethys. Palaeogeogr Palaeoclimatol Palaeoecol 290:151–159CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Burgess SD, Bowring SA (2015) High-precision geochronology confirms voluminous magmatism before, during and after Earth’s most severe extinction. Sci Adv 1:e1500470CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Clarkson MO, Kasemann SA, Wood RA, Lenton TM, Daines SJ, Richoz S, Ohnemueller F, Meixner A et al (2015) Ocean acidification and the Permo-Triassic mass extinction. Science 348:229–332CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Coccioni R, Sideri M, Frontalini F, Montanari A (2016) The Rotalipora cushmani extinction at Gubbio (Italy): planktonic foraminiferal testimonial of the onset of the Caribbean large igneous province emplacement. Geol Soc Am Spec Pap 524:79–96Google Scholar
  12. Collins GS, Wünnemann K (2005) How big was the Chesapeake Bay impact? Insight from numerical modeling. Geology 33:925–928CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Courtillot V, Renne PR (2003) On the ages of flood basalt events. C R Acad Sci Geosci 335:113–140CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Courtillot V, Jaeger JJ, Yang Z, Feraud G, Hoffman C (1996) The influence of continental flood basalts on extinctions. Where do we stand? Geol Soc Am Spec Pap 307:513–525Google Scholar
  15. Cucciniello C, Melluso L, Jourdan F, Mahoney JJ, Meisel T, Morra V (2013) 40Ar–39Ar ages and isotope geochemistry of Cretaceous basalts in northern Madagascar: refining eruption ages, extent of crustal contamination and parental magmas in a flood basalt province. Geol Mag 150:1–17CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Dickson AJ, Rees-Owen RL, Marz C, Coe A, Cohen AS, Pancost RD, Taylor K, Shcherbinina E (2014) The spread of marine anoxia on the northern Tethys margin during the Paleocene–Eocene Thermal Maximum. Paleoceanography 29:471–488CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Du Vivier ADC, Selby D, Sageman BB, Jarvis I, Grocke DR, Voight S (2014) Marine187Os/188Os isotope stratigraphy reveals the interaction of volcanism and ocean circulation during Oceanic Anoxic Event 2. Earth Planet Sci Lett 389:23–33CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Earth Impact Database (2017) Planetary and Space Science Center, University of New Brunswick, Canada.
  19. Eldrett JS et al (2015) An astronomically calibrated stratigraphy of the Cenomanian, Turonian and earliest Coniacian from the Cretaceous Western Interior Seaway, USA: implications for global chronostratigraphy. Cretac Res 56:316–344CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Erba E (2004) Calcareous nannofossils and Mesozoic oceanic anoxic events. Mar Micropaleontol 52:85–106CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Erba E, Bartolini A, Larson RL (2004) Valanginian Weissert oceanic anoxic event. Geology 32:149–152CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Gradstein FM, Ogg JG, Schmitz M, Ogg G (2012) The geologic time scale. Wiley, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  23. Grice K, Cao C, Love GL, Jin Y (2005) Photic zone euxinia during the Permian-Triassic superanoxic event. Science 307:706–709CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Hallam A, Wignall PB (1999) Mass extinctions and sea-level changes. Earth Sci Rev 48:217–250CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Hesselbo SP, Robinson SA, Surlyk F, Piasecki S (2002) Terrestrial and marine extinction at the Triassic-Jurassic boundary synchronized with major carbon-cycle perturbation: a link to initiation of massive volcanism? Geology 30:251–254CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Holm-Alwmark S et al (2016) An early Jurassic 40Ar/39Ar age for the Puchezh-Katunki impact structure (Russia)—no causal link to an extinction event (abstract). In: 79th annual meeting of the meteoritical society, Abstract number 6171Google Scholar
  27. Honisch B et al (2012) The geological record of ocean acidification. Science 335:1058–1063CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Jenkyns H (2010) Geochemistry of oceanic anoxic events. Geochem Geophys Geosyst 11:1–30CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Jerram DA, Widdowson M (2005) The anatomy of Continental Flood Basalt Provinces: geological constraints on the processes and products of flood volcanism. Lithos 79:385–405CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Jourdan F, Hodges K et al (2014) High-precision dating of the Kalkarindji large igneous province, Australia, and synchrony with the Early–Middle Cambrian (Stage 4–5) extinction. Geology 42:543–546CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Kajiwara Y, Kaiho K (1992) Oceanic anoxia at the Cretaceous/Tertiary boundary supported by the sulfur isotopic record. Palaeogeogr Palaeoclimatol Palaeoecol 99:151–162CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Kelley SDJP (2007) The chronology of large igneous provinces, terrestrial impact craters and their relationships to mass extinctions. J Geol Soc Lond 164:923–936CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Kravchinsky VA (2012) Paleozoic large igneous provinces of Northern Eurasia: correlation with mass extinction events. Glob Planet Chang 86–87:31–36CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Kring DA (2002) Reevaluating the impact kill curve. Meteorit Planet Sci 37:1648–1649CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Loewen MW, Duncan RA, Kent AJR, Krawl K (2013) Prolonged plume volcanism in the Caribbean Large Igneous Province: new insights from Curaçao and Haiti. Geochem Geophys Geosyst 14:4241–4259CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. McLaren DJ, Goodfellow WD (1990) Geological and biological consequences of giant impacts. Annu Rev Earth Planet Sci 18:123–171CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Onoue T, Sato H et al (2012) Deep-sea record of impact apparently unrelated to mass extinction in the Late Triassic. Proc Natl Acad Sci USA 109:19134–19139CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Onoue T, Sato H et al (2016) Bolide impact triggered the Late Triassic event in equatorial Panthalassa. Nature Scientific Reports 6, Article number: 29609. doi: 10.1038/srep29609
  39. Palfy J, Smith PL (2000) Synchrony between Early Jurassic extinction, oceanic anoxic event, and the Karoo-Ferrar flood basalt volcanism. Geology 28:747–750CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Palfy J, Demeny A, Haas J, Hetenyi M, Orchard MJ, Veto I et al (2001) Carbon isotope anomaly and other geochemical changes at the Triassic-Jurassic boundary from a marine section in Hungary. Geology 29:1047–1050CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Papoulis A (1984) Probability, random variables, and stochastic processes, 2nd edn. McGraw-Hill, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  42. Parker WG, Martz JW (2011) The Late Triassic (Norian) Adamanian-Revueltian tetrapod faunal transition in the Chinle Formation of Petrified Forest National Park, Arizona. Earth Environ Sci Trans R Soc Edinb 101:231–260Google Scholar
  43. Pierazzo E, Hahmann AN, Sloan LC (2003) Chicxulub and climate: radiative perturbations of impact-produced S-bearing gases. Astrobiology 1:99–118CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Pierazzo E, Garcia RR, Kinnison DE, Marsh DR, Lee-Taylor J, Crutzen PJ (2010) Ozone perturbation from medium-size asteroid impacts in the ocean. Earth Planet Sci Lett 299:263–272CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Poag CW (1997) Roadblocks on the kill curve: testing the Raup hypothesis. Palaios 12:582–590CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Poag CW, Koeberl C, Reimold WU (2004) Chesapeake Bay crater: geology and geophysics of a late Eocene submarine impact structure. Springer, HeidelbergCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Rampino MR, Caldeira K (2015) Periodic impact cratering and extinction events over the last 260 million years. Mon Not R Astron Soc 454:3480–3484CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Rampino MR, Caldeira K (2017) Correlation of the largest craters, stratigraphic impact signatures, and extinction events over the past 250 Myr. Geosci Front 8Google Scholar
  49. Rampino MR, Self S (2015) Large igneous provinces and biotic extinctions. In: Sigurdsson H et al (eds) The encyclopedia of volcanoes, 2nd edn. Academic Press, London, pp 1049–1058CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. Rampino MR, Stothers RB (1988) Flood basalt volcanism during the past 250 million years. Science 241:663–668CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. Rampino MR, Haggerty BM, Pagano TC (1997) A unified theory of impact crises and mass extinctions: quantitative tests. Ann N Y Acad Sci 822:403–431CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  52. Raup DM (1991) Extinction, bad genes or bad luck?. Norton, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  53. Raup DM, Sepkoski JJ Jr (1984) Periodicity of extinctions in the geologic past. Proc Natl Acad Sci USA 81:801–805CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  54. Raup DM, Sepkoski JJ Jr (1986) Periodic extinctions of families and genera. Science 231:833–836CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  55. Robinson N, Ravizza Coccioni R, Peucker-Ehrenbrink B, Norris R (2008) A high resolution marine osmium isotope record for the late Maastrichtian: distinguishing the chemical fingerprints of the Deccan and KT impactor. Earth Planet Sci Lett 28:159–168Google Scholar
  56. Ruhl M, Bonis NR, Reichart G-J, Sinninghe Damste JS, Kurschner WM (2011) Atmospheric carbon injection linked to end-Triassic mass extinction. Science 333:430–434CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  57. Schoene B et al (2015) U-Pb geochronology of the Deccan Traps and relation to the end-Cretaceous mass extinction. Science 347:182–184CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  58. Schulte P, Alegret L, Arenillas I et al (2010) The Chicxulub asteroid impact and mass extinction at the Cretaceous-Paleogene boundary. Science 327:1214–1218CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  59. Sell B et al (2014) Evaluating the temporal link between the Karoo LIP and climatic-biologic events of the Toarcian Stage with high- precision U-Pb geochronology. Earth Planet Sci Lett 408:48–56CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  60. Speijer RP, Wagner T (2002) Sea-level changes and black shales associated with the late Paleocene thermal maximum: organic-geochemical and micropaleontologic evidence for the southern Tethyan margin (Egypt-Israel). Geol Soc Am Spec Pap 356:533–549Google Scholar
  61. Stothers RB (1993) Flood basalts and extinction events. Geophys Res Lett 20:1399–1402CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  62. Toon OB, Zahnle K, Morrison D, Turco RP, Covey C (1997) Environmental perturbations caused by impacts of asteroids and comets. Rev Geophys 35:41–78CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  63. Turgeon SC, Creaser RA (2008) Cretaceous oceanic anoxic event 2 triggered by a massive magmatic episode. Nature 454:323–326CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  64. Van de Schootbrugge B et al (2007) End-Triassic calcification crisis and blooms of organic-walled ‘disaster’ species. Palaeogeogr Palaeoclimatol Palaeoecol 244:126–141CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  65. Wignall PB (2001) Large igneous provinces and mass extinctions. Earth Sci Rev 53:1–33CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  66. Zhu D-C, Chung S-L, Mo X-X, Zha Z-D, Niu Y, Song B, Yang Y-H (2009) The 132 Ma Comei-Bunbury large igneous province: remnants identified in present-day southeastern Tibet and southwestern Australia. Geology 37:581–586CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Departments of Biology and Environmental StudiesNew York UniversityNew YorkUSA
  2. 2.NASA, Goddard Institute for Space StudiesNew YorkUSA
  3. 3.Department of Global EcologyCarnegie Institute for ScienceStanfordUSA

Personalised recommendations