66.043 ±0.011 mA – CRETACEOUS-PALEOGENE EXTINCTION
76% of all species lost
The delicate leafy sutures decorating this shell represent some advanced engineering, providing the fortification the squid-like ammonite required to withstand the pressure of deep dives in pursuit of its prey. Dinosaurs may have ruled the land during the Cretaceous period but the oceans belonged to the ammonites. But volcanic activity and climate change already placed the ammonites under stress. The asteroid impact that ended the dinosaurs’ reign provided the final blow. Only a few dwindling species of ammonites survived. Today, the ammonites’ oldest surviving relative is the nautilus. Will it survive the sixth great extinction?
CRETACEOUS-TERTIARY/CRETACEOUS-PALEOGENE (K–Pg) BOUNDARY
A major stratigraphic boundary on Earth marking the end of the Mesozoic Era, best known as the age of the dinosaurs. The boundary is defined by a global extinction event that caused the abrupt demise of the majority of life on Earth. It has been dated to 65 million years ago, coeval with the age of the 200-kilometer-diameter Chicxulub impact structure in Mexico.
K/T Boundary: concentrations of the rare platinum group elements (PGEs; Ru, Rh, Pb, Os, Ir, and Pt) and other siderophile elements (e.g., Co, Ni) are enriched by up to 4 orders of magnitude in the thin clay layer marking the K-T boundary compared to those of normal terrestrial crustal rocks. Cretacious/Tertiary boundary (the C abbreviation is already assigned to the Cambrian system), at present practically synonymous with marking the giant mass extinction 65 Ma ago. The extinction of the dinosaurs at that time is only a subordinate part of this remarkable event.
The following impacts occurred around the time of the Cretaceous-Paleogene Extinction: The Cretaceous–Paleogene (K–Pg) extinction event, also known as the Cretaceous–Tertiary (K–T) extinction, was a mass extinction of some three-quarters of the plant and animal species on Earth—including all non-avian dinosaurs—that occurred over a geologically short period of time approximately 66 million years ago. With the exception of some ectothermic species in aquatic ecosystems like the leatherback sea turtle and crocodiles, no tetrapods weighing more than 55 pounds (25 kilos) survived. It marked the end of the Cretaceous period and with it, the entire Mesozoic Era, opening the Cenozoic Era that continues today.In the geologic record, the K–Pg event is marked by a thin layer of sediment called the K–Pg boundary, which can be found throughout the world in marine and terrestrial rocks. The boundary clay shows high levels of the metal iridium, which is rare in the Earth’s crust but abundant in asteroids.
Evidence for impact Sedimentary layers found all over the world at the Cretaceous–Paleogene boundary contain a concentration of iridium many times greater than normal. Iridium is extremely rare in Earth’s crust because it is a siderophile element, and therefore most of it traveled with the iron as it sank into Earth’s core during planetary differentiation. Iridium is abundant in most asteroids and comets suggesting that an asteroid struck the Earth at the time of the K–Pg boundary. There were earlier speculations on the possibility of an impact event, but this was the first hard evidence of an impact.In a 2013 paper, Paul Renne of the Berkeley Geochronology Center reported that the date of the asteroid event is 66.043±0.011 million years ago, based on argon–argon dating. He further posits that the mass extinction occurred within 32 thousand years of this date.Renne, Paul R.; (et al) Jan (7 February 2013).
UPDATE MAY 2020
The environmental severity of large impacts on Earth is influenced by their impact trajectory. Impact direction and angle to the target plane affect the volume and depth of origin of vaporized target, as well as the trajectories of ejected material. The asteroid impact that formed the 66 Ma Chicxulub crater had a profound and catastrophic effect on Earth’s environment, but the impact trajectory is debated. Here we show that impact angle and direction can be diagnosed by asymmetries in the subsurface structure of the Chicxulub crater. Comparison of 3D numerical simulations of Chicxulub-scale impacts with geophysical observations suggests that the Chicxulub crater was formed by a steeply-inclined (45–60° to horizontal) impact from the northeast; several lines of evidence rule out a low angle (<30°) impact. A steeply-inclined impact produces a nearly symmetric distribution of ejected rock and releases more climate-changing gases per impactor mass than either a very shallow or near-vertical impact.
“Time Scales of Critical Events Around the Cretaceous-Paleogene Boundary”. Science 339 (6120)
Extraterrestrial cause for the cretaceous–tertiary extinction. (1980 – preChicxulub discovery)