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PhD: The Carnian Pluvial Episode – a hidden mass extinction that triggered ecosystem revolution

Project Title

The Carnian Pluvial Episode – a hidden mass extinction that triggered ecosystem revolution


University of Bristol

Supervisors and Institutions

Michael J. Benton (University of Bristol), Andrew Newel (British Geological Survey), Matt Wills (University of Bath)

Funding Status

Funding is in competition with other projects and students

Project Description

The Carnian Pluvial Episode (CPE) was identified in 1989, but its timing, drivers, and impacts have only been recognised recently. The CPE was triggered by Wrangellia LIP eruptions which led to global warming, extreme humidity on land, acid rain, and ocean acidification and anoxia. The CPE not only killed as many as 50% of species, but triggered a burst of recovery of reefs and neopterygian fishes in the sea, and dinosaurs on land. The CPE ranks with the ‘big five’ mass extinctions, and yet it has been little noticed, and not studied. In particular, we do not have an accurate estimate of which groups were killed off and which survived, nor about issues such as selectivity and connections between recovery and climate change. The aim of the project is to document exactly what went extinct and what survived, and then to explore the impact of the extinction on life in general, on particular ecosystems, and palaeogeographically, as well as understanding selectivity (e.g. did victims share any characters) and the nature of the recovery (how fast; geographic issues; which clades expanded and which did not?). The student will use the latest stratigraphic information to establish the most precise possible data base on Carnian sedimentary formations worldwide, and then use this backdrop to determine the timing of extinction and origination of all key groups through the Late Triassic, with a focus on the Carnian. The raw data will provide the material for a study of the dynamics of species turnover before, during and after the CPE. Where cladograms are available, the study will extend to determining how the CPE punctuated rates of trait evolution during the crisis, and during the recovery. Where possible, field and borehole data will be used to document sections through the CPE in the English red beds, and in the marine successions of the Dolomites in north Italy, to compare regional patterns or extinction and origin with sedimentary evidence on environments.

Contact Name

Michael Benton

Contact Email

Link to More Information

Closing Date

Monday, January 7, 2019

Expiry Date

Monday, September 30, 2019
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