Sixteen mass extinctions of the past 541 My correlated with 15 pulses of Large Igneous Province (LIP) volcanism and the 4 largest extraterrestrial impacts

Michael R. Rampino, Ken Caldeira, Sedelia Rodriguez

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


We find that Large Igneous Province (LIP) volcanism, mostly continental flood basalts (CFBs), along with the largest extraterrestrial impacts show significant correlations with mass-extinction events in the Phanerozoic geologic record. The ages of the 6 major marine mass extinctions (≥ 40% extinction of genera) of the last 541 My–the end-Ordovician (∼444 Ma), late Devonian (∼372 Ma), end-Guadalupian (∼259 Ma), end-Permian (∼252 Ma), end-Triassic (∼201 Ma), and end-Cretaceous (66 Ma) extinctions are significantly correlated with high-quality U[sbnd]Pb zircon and 40Ar/39Ar ages of 6 continental flood basalts (CFBs) –the Cape St. Mary's, Viluy, Emeishan, Siberian, CAMP, and the Deccan Basalts, The mass extinctions also coincide with stratigraphic Hg anomalies representing proxy evidence for the synchrony of the extinctions and the basaltic volcanism. Furthermore, ages of 6 minor extinction events (15% to 25% extinction of marine genera) at ∼ 94 Ma, 124 Ma, 134 Ma, 183 Ma, 290 Ma and 510 Ma also coincided with 6 well-dated CFB eruptions (the Madagascar, HALIP, Paranå/Etendeka, Karoo/Ferrar, Panjal and Kakarindji Basalts) and with associated Hg anomalies. At least 3 minor extinction events (at ∼ 145 Ma, 215 Ma and 227 Ma) apparently occurred close to times of oceanic plateau (OP) volcanism in the Pacific Ocean (Shatsky Rise, Angayucham and Wrangellia Basalts). Major and minor marine mass-extinction episodes at times of CFB eruptions were commonly accompanied by ocean anoxic/euxinic events, increased ocean acidity, high atmospheric pCO2, increases in UV-B radiation from ozone-layer destruction, and pulses of high ambient temperatures, providing potential immediate causes for the mass extinctions. The 4 most recent major marine extinctions (∼66 Ma, 201 Ma, 252 Ma, and 260 Ma) and a minor extinction (∼290 Ma) coincided with the ages of CFBs and with concurrent mass extinctions of non-marine vertebrates, indicating global-scale volcanogenic environmental crises on land and in the sea. The age of the abrupt end-Cretaceous major mass extinction (66 Ma) overlaps with the age of the Deccan eruptions, but is exactly coincident with the very large Chicxulub impact (180 km diameter crater), possibly the largest terrestrial impact of the last ∼3 By. The ages of the 3 next largest well-dated Phanerozoic terrestrial impact craters (≥100 km in diameter), the Popigai, Morokweng and Manicouagan craters, capable of causing widespread environmental effects, are concurrent with the ages of minor extinction events at ∼37 Ma, 145 Ma and 215 Ma. The significant correlations and the predicted severe environmental consequences of these major volcanic and impact events are very convincing that 12 CFB eruptions, at least 3 oceanic plateau eruptions, and the 4 largest impacts were involved with recognized biotic mass-extinction episodes of the last 541 My, and leave little room for alternate primary causes of the extinctions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number104369
JournalGlobal and Planetary Change
StatePublished - Mar 2024


  • Continental flood basalts
  • Large extraterrestrial impacts
  • Large igneous provinces
  • Mass extinctions

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Global and Planetary Change
  • Oceanography


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