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, 95 (19), 11028-9

Meteorite Impact and the Mass Extinction of Species at the Cretaceous/Tertiary Boundary

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Meteorite Impact and the Mass Extinction of Species at the Cretaceous/Tertiary Boundary

K O Pope et al. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A.


Figure 1
Figure 1
Image of the down-range trajectory of the vapor plume produced by an oblique impact (15° from horizontal) of a 5.2 km/s projectile into powered dolomite (Ca and Mg carbonate similar to the sedimentary rocks at Chicxulub). The point of impact is marked by the triangle at lower right. Frame shown (4) is approximately 100 μs after impact. Illumination is solely from hot, glowing vapors. Note the down-range ballistic component of the hot vapors (black arrows), which for Chicxulub would have focused destruction on North America. Experiment conducted by Peter Schultz with the National Aeronautics and Space Administration Ames Vertical Gun. Photographs courtesy of P. Schultz, frame 4 from figure 4, ref. .
Figure 2
Figure 2
Graph of the observed temporal ranges of 28 species of ammonite and the positions of the individual fossils (short horizontal dashes). Observed ranges underestimate true ranges due to the incompleteness of the fossil record. This incompleteness can be accommodated by placing a representative gap (confidence interval) on the end of the ranges. The 50 and 95% confidence intervals are represented by small squares and inverted triangles, respectively, or where they extend well above the K/T boundary by arrows. Each species can be placed in one of three categories: (i) it became extinct well before the K/T boundary (the 95% confidence intervals fall well short of the boundary), a victim of so-called background extinction; (ii) it became extinct at the K/T boundary or during a major drop in sea level shortly before the boundary (represented by the stippled horizontal band); or (iii) it became extinct at the K/T boundary. Species in this third category are all found in the last 1.5 m of the Cretaceous (fossil positions not shown). The method used to calculate confidence interval assumes random fossilization. Some key aspects of the analysis are not discussed here; for further details see reference ref. .

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