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Publication details for Dr Darren R. Gröcke

Caruthers, A. H., Smith, P. L. & Gröcke, D. R. (2013). The Pliensbachian–Toarcian (Early Jurassic) extinction, a global multi-phased event. Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology 386: 104-118.

Author(s) from Durham


During the Pliensbachian–Toarcian interval of the Early Jurassic, there is a well-known second order marine extinction that is observable at the species and genus levels. Ammonite diversity data from successions throughout Europe and parts of the Arctic suggest that this extinction may have been multi-phased with diversity declining over six separate intervals. The main-phase of decline begins at the Pliensbachian–Toarcian boundary and extends into the Lower Toarcian, to a level that is correlative with the Tenuicostatum/Serpentinum Zone boundary. To date, only the main-phase of extinction has been demonstrated as being global in extent and affecting multiple taxonomic groups. This multi-phased extinction has been attributed to regional and global controlling mechanisms that are associated with the Volcanic Greenhouse Scenario which links the eruption of the Karoo–Ferrar large igneous province (LIP) to global warming and mass extinction.

We compare stratigraphic ranges of ammonite and foraminiferal species in Pliensbachian–Toarcian successions of western North America to the record in Europe and parts of the Arctic in order to test the geographic extent of the multiple phases of extinction. Our results show six intervals of species level decline that correlate with those recognized in Europe: 1) middle of the Lower Pliensbachian (middle Whiteavesi–middle Freboldi Zones), 2) middle of the Upper Pliensbachian (upper Kunae–lower Carlottense Zone), 3) Pliensbachian/Toarcian boundary into the Lower Toarcian (upper Carlottense–middle Kanense Zones), 4) Middle Toarcian (upper Planulata–lower Crassicosta Zones), 5) upper Middle–lower Upper Toarcian (middle Crassicosta–Hillebrandti Zones) and 6) Upper Toarcian (lower Yakounensis Zone).

Recognition of this multi-phased event in three separate ocean basins (paleo Pacific, paleo Arctic, and Tethys Oceans), in at least two taxonomic groups, greatly expands the known geographic extent of this multi-phased event and argues for a controlling mechanism that is global in its reach. In relation to the Volcanic Greenhouse Scenario, our study shows that four of the six pulses of extinction occur within the main-phase of Karoo magmatism. The decline in the Early Pliensbachian, previously thought to be separate from this event, occurs within error range of the onset of Karoo magmatism and the decline in the Late Toarcian coincides with the later stages of magmatism. These observations extend the known duration of this multi-phased extinction event to the Early Pliensbachian and support the Volcanic Greenhouse Scenario, specifically the eruption of the Karoo–Ferrar LIP, as a preeminent factor driving the multi-phased extinction of the Pliensbachian–Toarcian.