Biodiversity crisis and recovery during the Triassic-Jurassic greenhouse interval: testing ocean acidification hypotheses
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The Late Rhaetian (Late Triassic) extinction event is characterised by shelled species showing a reduction in size, and thickness, which together with changed mineralogy is thought to be as a result of increased atmospheric pCO2 levels. Similar morphological changes have been demonstrated for extant species exposed experimentally to high CO2 leading to the hypothesis that Late Triassic extinctions were linked with global ocean acidification and increased oceanic palaeotemperatures. Consequently, the aim of this present work was to test this ocean acidification hypothesis by investigating morphological changes in selected shelled fossil species across this extinction event, and attempt to correlate them with changes in environmental temperature and pCO2. The abundance, size, shell thickness and mineralogy was determined for three common species, the bivalves Liostrea hisingeri and Plagiostoma gigantea and the ostracod Ogmoconchella aspinata collected from Triassic and Jurassic rocks from two locations in southwest England. Palaeotemperature was reconstructed from examination of these fossils and from the literature and atmospheric pCO2 estimated from published accounts. The shell size of bivalves increased during periods of high pCO2 and high palaeotemperature at both locations. Ostracod carapace sizes increased at St Audrie’s Bay but decreased at Lyme Regis during periods of high pCO2, while ostracod carapace size decreased during periods of high palaeotemperature at St Audrie’s Bay. However, ostracod shell thickness increased and decreased as pCO2 increased but shows no relationship with palaeotemperature at either location. Laboratory experiments on the effect of elevated pCO2 and elevated temperature on three modern species of ostracod was carried out. Modern species Leptocythere sp. and L. castanea subjected to either elevated pCO2 or elevated temperature showed increased dissolution, however size and thickness did not significantly change. In the same experimental conditions L. lacertosa showed increased dissolution however size continued to increase, while thickness was maintained. Comparison of fossil bivalve and ostracod data to modern high pCO2 and high temperature experiments illustrates some correlations to the modern experiments results indicating high pCO2 and high palaeotemperature conditions could have been occurring during the Triassic-Jurassic boundary interval. From the evidence presented, combined with an appropriate trigger (CAMP volcanism), it can be concluded that both ocean acidification and palaeotemperature were contributing to the species adaptations identified across the Triassic-Jurassic boundary interval.
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