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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

Abstract

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.

Keywords

Mass extinctions Large body impacts Flood basalts 

Notes

Acknowledgements

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.

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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

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