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High influx of carbon in walls of agglutinated foraminifers during the Permian-Triassic transition in global oceans

February 19, 2015

The Permian–Triassic mass extinction is postulated to be related to the rapid volcanism that produced the Siberian flood basalt (Traps). Unrelated volcanic eruptions producing several episodes of ash falls synchronous with the Siberian Traps are found in South China and Australia. Such regional eruptions could have caused wildfires, burning of coal deposits, and the dispersion of coal fly ash. These eruptions introduced a major influx of carbon into the atmosphere and oceans that can be recognized in the wallstructure of foraminiferal tests present in survival populations in the boundary interval strata. Analysis of free specimens of foraminifers recovered from residues of conodont samples taken at aPermian–Triassic boundary section at Lung Cam in northern Vietnam has revealed the presence of a significant amount of elemental carbon, along with oxygen and silica, in their test wall structure, but an absence of calcium carbonate. These foraminifers, identified as Rectocornuspira kalhori, Cornuspira mahajeri, and Earlandia spp. and whose tests previously were considered to be calcareous, are confirmed to be agglutinated, and are now referred to as Ammodiscus kalhori and Hyperammina deformis. Measurement of the 207Pb/204Pb ratios in pyrite clusters attached to the foraminiferal tests confirmed that these tests inherited the Pb in their outer layer from carbon-contaminated seawater. We conclude that the source of the carbon could have been either global coal fly ash or forest fire-dispersed carbon, or a combination of both, that was dispersed into the Palaeo-Tethys Ocean immediately after the end-Permian extinction event.

Publication Year 2015
Title High influx of carbon in walls of agglutinated foraminifers during the Permian-Triassic transition in global oceans
DOI 10.1080/00206814.2015.1010610
Authors Galina P. Nestell, Merlynd K. Nestell, Brooks B. Ellwood, Bruce R. Wardlaw, Asish R. Basu, Nilotpal Ghosh, Luu Thi Phuong Lan, Harry D. Rowe, Andrew G. Hunt, Jonathan H. Tomkin, Kenneth T. Ratcliffe
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title International Geology Review
Index ID 70141469
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Eastern Geology and Paleoclimate Science Center