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The mid-Capitanian (Middle Permian) mass extinction and carbon isotope record of South China

Bond, D. P. G.; Wignall, P. B.; Wang, W.; Izon, G.; Jiang, H. S.; Lai, X. L.; Sun, Y. D.; Newton, R. J.; Shao, L. Y.; Védrine, S.; Cope, H.


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David Bond
Palaeoenvironmental Scientist and Schools Liason Officer

P. B. Wignall

W. Wang

G. Izon

H. S. Jiang

X. L. Lai

Y. D. Sun

R. J. Newton

L. Y. Shao

S. Védrine

H. Cope


Conodont, C isotope and fossil and facies data are presented for the Capitanian (Middle Permian) mass extinction record seen in platform carbonates (Maokou and Wuchiaping formations) of South China, where limestones interdigitate with the volcanic succession of the Emeishan large igneous province. The Maokou Formation provides an extinction record marked by the loss of keriothecal-walled fusulinaceans and a turnover in calcareous algae. In sections within the Emeishan province this crisis occurs at the base of the oldest record of volcanism from the Jinogondolella altudaensis conodont zone (of mid-Capitanian age). Around the periphery of the Emeishan province this extinction level lies within the upper part of the Maokou Formation at a level where platform carbonate deposition was frequently interrupted by thick volcanic ash depositional events. The assemblages of the uppermost Maokou Formation are characterised by typical "Late Permian" taxa although these levels still lie within the Middle Permian (Guadalupian Series). "Disaster" taxa, such as Earlandia and Diplosphaerina are locally prolifically abundant in the aftermath of the mass extinction. The crisis is particularly noteworthy amongst photosynthetic taxa such as calcareous algae and fusulinaceans that probably harboured photosymbionts. Therefore, a kill mechanism involving cooling from explosive volcanism and potentially acid rain from sulphate aerosols appears appropriate. A composite δ13Ccarb curve, calibrated against a high-resolution conodont biostratigraphy reveals a major intra-Capitanian negative excursion (of >5‰) superimposed on typically heavy (4-5‰) Middle Permian values. This curve can also be recognised in Panthalassan seamount carbonates of Japan although this requires reassignment of apparently Upper Permian limestones to the Middle Permian. In both China and Japan the Capitanian mass extinction occurs during the early stage of this major, intra-Capitanian negative excursion. Assuming typical platform carbonate accumulation rates, the records of the Maokou Formation suggest δ13Ccarb values fell at ∼0.01‰/kyr suggesting a catastrophic origin (such as gas hydrate destabilisation) is unlikely, although a volcanic source is possible.


Bond, D. P. G., Wignall, P. B., Wang, W., Izon, G., Jiang, H. S., Lai, X. L., …Cope, H. (2010). The mid-Capitanian (Middle Permian) mass extinction and carbon isotope record of South China. Palaeogeography, palaeoclimatology, palaeoecology, 292(1-2), 282-294.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Mar 31, 2010
Online Publication Date Apr 8, 2010
Publication Date 2010-06
Print ISSN 0031-0182
Publisher Elsevier
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 292
Issue 1-2
Pages 282-294
Keywords Earth-Surface Processes; Palaeontology; Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics; Oceanography
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