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Ecological response to collapse of the biological pump following the mass extinction at the Cretaceous-Paleogene boundary

Vellekoop, Johan
Woelders, Lineke
Acikalin, Sanem
Smit, Jan
van de Schootbrugge, Bas
Yılmaz, İsmail Ömer
Brinkhuis, Henk
Speijer, Robert P.
It is commonly accepted that the mass extinction associated with the Cretaceous-Paleogene (K-Pg) boundary (similar to 66 Ma) is related to the environmental effects of a large extraterrestrial impact. The biological and oceanographic consequences of the mass extinction are, however, still poorly understood. According to the "Living Ocean" model, the biological crisis at the K-Pg boundary resulted in a long-term reduction of export productivity in the early Paleocene. Here, we combine organic-walled dinoflagellate cyst (dinocyst) and benthic foraminiferal analyses to provide new insights into changes in the coupling of pelagic and benthic ecosystems. To this end, we perform dinocyst and benthic foraminiferal analyses on the recently discovered Tethyan K-Pg boundary section at Okcular, Turkey, and compare the results with other K-Pg boundary sites in the Tethys. The post-impact dominance of epibenthic morphotypes and an increase of inferred heterotrophic dinocysts in the early Paleocene at Okcular are consistent with published records from other western Tethyan sites. Together, these records indicate that during the early Paleocene more nutrients remained available for the Tethyan planktonic community, whereas benthic communities were deprived of food. Hence, in the post-impact phase the reduction of export productivity likely resulted in enhanced recycling of nutrients in the upper part of the water column, all along the western Tethyan margins.