The Chicxulub impact is synchronous with the planktonic foraminifera mass extinction at the Cretaceous/Paleogene boundary: new evidence from the Moncada section, Cuba
Keywords:CCU, Ejecta, "K/T Boundary Clay”, Danian, PFAS
The Moncada section, western Cuba, is one of the few sections across the Cretaceous/Paleogene (K/Pg) boundary in the Gulf of Mexico and Caribbean where an Ir anomaly has been identified toward and above the top of a clastic unit, locally called the Moncada Formation (Fm.). The Moncada Fm. is enriched in ejecta (altered glass spherules, shocked quartz, melt rock fragments, etc.) and represents the local Complex Clastic Unit (CCU) linked to the Chicxulub impact event. This CCU is overlain by a 2-3cm thick bed of Ir-rich, dark, calcareous claystone which represents the “K/T Boundary Clay” at Moncada. All lowermost Danian Planktonic Foraminiferal zones and Acme-Stages (PFAS) were identified, suggesting stratigraphic continuity across the Danian and indicating that the Moncada Fm. is K/Pg boundary in age. High-resolution biostratigraphic data suggest that the mass extinction event of planktonic foraminifera at the K/Pg boundary was more severe than previously suggested. The absence of cosmopolitan, generalist Cretaceous species in the Danian deposits of Moncada supports the hypothesis that only Guembelitria survived the mass extinction triggered by the Chicxulub impact event. The high Ir-concentration and the ejecta-rich clay laminations identified in the lowermost Danian of Moncada (Ancón Fm.) are explained partly as the redeposition of ejecta material eroded and reworked from higher topographic levels, still contaminated by toxic trace elements (e.g., Cu and Ni) of meteoritic origin. These pollutants of meteoritic origin could have affected the ecological conditions of the pelagic environment for thousands of years after the K/Pg boundary, being particularly intense just after the Chicxulub impact. The ecological stress due to the pollutants partly explains the catastrophic mass extinction of planktonic foraminifera at the K/Pg boundary and their subsequent evolutionary radiation
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