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Title: Mercury Spikes Indicate a Volcanic Trigger for the Late Ordovician Mass Extinction Event: An Example from a Deep Shelf of the Peri-Baltic Region
Authors: Smolarek-Łach, Justyna
Marynowski, Leszek
Trela, Wiesław
Wignall, Paul B.
Keywords: Late Ordovician mass extinction; Mercury Spikes; Volcanic Trigger; Deep Shelf; Peri-Baltic Region
Issue Date: 2019
Citation: Scientific Reports, Vol. 9 (2019), Art. No. 3139
Abstract: The Late Ordovician mass extinction (LOME) was the second largest Phanerozoic crisis, but its cause remains elusive. Several triggering mechanisms have been proposed over the years, including bioevolutionary events, oceanographic changes, and geotectonic processes. Here, we report the presence of Hg spikes in the Zbrza PIG-1 borehole from the Upper Ordovician deep shelf sections of the peri-Baltic region. A strong positive anomaly in the lower late Katian (Hg/TO C = 2537.3 ppb/wt%) was noted. No correlation between Hg and TO C (R2 = 0.07) was distinguished in the Hirnantian, although several positive anomalies were found. Because the Hg/Mo ratio showed trends very similar to those of Hg/TOC, it seems likely that TOC values reflect the redox conditions. In order to evaluate the role of anoxia in levels of Hg enrichment several redox indicators were measured. These showed that the elevated mercury values in the Hirnantian are not caused by anoxia/euxinia because euxinic biomarkers (maleimides and aryl isoprenoids) are present in very low abundance and pyrite framboids are absent. In total, positive Hg/TO C anomalies occur in the lower late Katian, at the Katian - Hirnantian boundary, and in the late Hirnantian. The lack of a strong Hg/TO C correlation, Ni enrichments, and the absence of ‘anoxic indicators’ (no biomarkers, no framboids, low Mo concentration) at these levels, supports the interpretation that Hg enrichment is due to enhanced environmental loading. We conclude that our Hg and Hg/TO C values were associated with volcanic pulses which triggered the massive environmental changes resulting in the Late Ordovician mass extinction.
DOI: 10.1038/s41598-019-39333-9
ISSN: 2045-2322
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