Baylor University
Department of Geosciences
College of Arts and Sciences

Geology News Items

Scientist Offers New Geological Methods To Help Determine the Cause of Two Largest Extinctions

Feb. 18, 2010

The seminar will elaborate on how high-precision U-Pb zircon geochronology can constrain the ages of large volcanic eruptions, called large igneous provinces, to help show what might have caused the Permian/Triassic and Cretaceous/Tertiary mass extinctions.

"The main hypothesis for the Cretaceous/Tertiary extinctions is that a meteorite hit Mexico and caused the extinction, but around the same time there were massive eruptions in India. Did the meteorite hit after the eruption, or did it occur at the same time and is the extinction related to the meteorite, the eruptions, or both?" said Dr. Daniel Peppe, assistant professor of Geology.

To tell the difference between cause of the extinction and coincidence of events, a highly calibrated record using calibrated chemostratigraphic, paleontological, magnetostratigraphic data needs to be established and the age and duration of the eruptions needs to be compared with the age of the extinctions.

"Bowring's technique is much more precise and accurate, than other methods. With his method you can constrain the ages of these extinctions to determine the killing mechanism," said Peppe.