Methane seeps as refugia during ash falls in the Late Cretaceous Western Interior Seaway of North America

Shannon Brophy*, Matthew Garb, Jone Naujokaityte, James D Witts, Neil H. Landman, J.K. Cochran, J. Brezina

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)


Methane seeps host rich biotic communities, forming patchy yet highly productive ecosystems across the global ocean. Persistent hydrocarbon emissions fuel chemosynthetic food webs at seeps. Methane seeps were abundant in the Western Interior Seaway of North America during the Late Cretaceous. This area also experienced intermittent ash falls, which negatively impacted the marine fauna. We propose that methane seeps acted as refugia during these environmental perturbations. We report a laterally continuous bentonite within the upper Campanian Baculites compressus Zone of the Pierre Shale in southwestern South Dakota (USA) that fortuitously cuts across a methane seep deposit. We compare the macroinvertebrate record below and above the bentonite at seep and non-seep sites. Our results reveal that the paleocommunity (measured by abundance and diversity) was largely unaffected by the ash fall at the seep site, whereas it was significantly altered at the non-seep site. Thus, methane seeps in the Western Interior Seaway may have provided refuges or served as oases in the aftermath of severe environmental perturbations.
Original languageEnglish
Article numberG49372.1
Pages (from-to)442-447
Number of pages6
Early online date16 Dec 2021
Publication statusPublished - 2021


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