Latest Cretaceous climatic and environmental change in the South Atlantic region

L. Woelders*, J. Vellekoop, D. Kroon, J. Smit, S. Casadío, M. B. Prámparo, J. Dinarès-Turell, F. Peterse, A. Sluijs, J. T.M. Lenaerts, R. P. Speijer

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Latest Maastrichtian climate change caused by Deccan volcanism has been invoked as a cause of mass extinction at the Cretaceous-Paleogene (K-Pg) boundary (~66.0 Ma). Yet late Maastrichtian climate and ecological changes are poorly documented, in particular on the Southern Hemisphere. Here we present upper Maastrichtian-lower Danian climate and biotic records from the Bajada del Jagüel (BJ) shelf site (Neuquén Basin, Argentina), employing the TEX86 paleothermometer, marine palynology (dinoflagellate cysts), and micropaleontology (foraminifera). These records are correlated to the astronomically tuned Ocean Drilling Program Site 1262 (Walvis Ridge). Collectively, we use these records to assess climatic and ecological effects of Deccan volcanism in the Southern Atlantic region. Both the TEX86-based sea surface temperature (SST) record at BJ and the bulk carbonate δ18O-based SST record of Site 1262 show a latest Maastrichtian warming of ~2.5–4°C, at 450 to 150 kyr before the K-Pg boundary, coinciding with the a large Deccan outpouring phase. Benthic foraminiferal and dinocyst assemblage changes indicate that this warming resulted in enhanced runoff and stratification of the water column, likely resulting from more humid climate conditions in the Neuquén Basin. These climate conditions could have been caused by an expanding and strengthening thermal low over the South American continent. Biotic changes in response to late Maastrichtian environmental changes are rather limited, when compared to the major turnovers observed at many K-Pg boundary sites worldwide. This suggests that environmental perturbations during the latest Maastrichtian warming event were less severe than those following the K-Pg boundary impact.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)466-483
Number of pages18
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 1 May 2017


  • Maastrichtian
  • oxygen isotopes
  • paleoclimate
  • paleoenvironment
  • South Atlantic
  • TEX86


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