Mercury anomalies associated with three extinction events (Capitanian Crisis, Latest Permian Extinction and the Smithian/Spathian Extinction) in NW Pangea
Grasby et al
Strata of Permian – Early Triassic age that include a record of three major extinction events (Capitanian Crisis, Latest Permian Extinction and the Smithian/Spathian Extinction) were examined at the Festningen section, Spitsbergen. Over the c. 12 Ma record examined, mercury in the sediments shows relatively constant background values of 0.005–0.010 μg g–1. However, there are notable spikes in Hg concentration over an order of magnitude above background associated with the three extinctions. The Hg/total organic carbon (TOC) ratio shows similar large spikes, indicating that they represent a true increase in Hg loading to the environment. We argue that these represent Hg loading events associated with enhanced Hg emissions from large igneous province (LIP) events that are synchronous with the extinctions. The Hg anomalies are consistent across the NW margin of Pangea, indicating that widespread mercury loading occurred. While this provides utility as a chemostratigraphic marker the Hg spikes may also indicate loading of toxic metals to the environment, a contributing cause to the mass extinction events.