Global Catastrophes in Earth History: An Interdisciplinary by Virgil L. Sharpton, Peter D. Ward

By Virgil L. Sharpton, Peter D. Ward

An interdisciplinary convention on affects, volcanism, and mass morality.

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34 1 , p. 278. Yuen, D. , and Peltier, W. , 1 980, Mantle plumes and the thermal stability of the DH layer: Geophysical Research Letters, v. 7, p. 625-628. Yuen, D. , 1 976, Mantle plumes; A boundary layer approach for Newtonian and non-Newtonian temperature-dependent rbeologies: Journal of Geophysical Research, v. 8 1 , p. 2499-25 1 0. A. Geological Society of America Special Paper 247 1 990 On impacts as a cause of geomagnetic field reversals or flood basalts David E. Loper Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Institute, Florida State University, Tallahassee, Florida 32306 Kevin McCartney Division of Mathematics and Science, University of Maine, Presque Isle, Maine 04769 ABSTRACT It has been suggested that impacts of comets or asteroids on the surface of the Earth can cause polarity reversals of the geomagnetic field and flood basalts.

But the results do support the following conclusion: If the true kill curve is within the range depicted in Figure 2, no killing mechanism other than bo/ide impact is neces­ sary to explain the Phanerozoic record. This statement seems absurd for the simple reason that we have an arsenal of known mechanisms other than impact to explain the fossil record of extinction. If bolide impact explains all the extinctions, back­ ground and mass, then what about all the extinctions caused by interspecies competition, spontaneous habitat loss, predation, dis­ ease, "normal" climate change, and sea-level rises and falls?

One solution to the paradox is the possibility that the biolog­ ical and physical mechanisms usually used to explain fossil ex­ tinctions are not effective. There is reason to be suspicious of the conventional mechanisms. Biological forces such as predation, disease, and habitat restriction are known to be effective in small areas, and the phenomenon of local extinction has been studied exhaustively by ecologists. But there do not appear to be any documented cases of these forces producing total extinction of species or genera where the organisms have continent-wide or global distributions.

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