Minor changes in biomarker assemblages in the aftermath of the Cretaceous-Paleogene mass extinction event at the Agost distal section (Spain)

Claudia Sosa Montes De Oca, Marta Rodrigo Gámiz, Francisca Martínez-Ruiz, Francisco Javier Rodriguez-Tovar, Jose Manuel Castro , Maria Luisa Quijano , Rich D Pancost

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


The Cretaceous/Palaeogene Boundary (KPgB) represents one of the five major mass extinctions in Earth´s history, and determining the nature of associated environmental change and biotic recovery is critical for understanding the history of life on our planet. To explore that, we examined the distributions of selected biomarkers (n-alkanes, acyclic isoprenoids, steranes and hopanes), organic and carbonate 13C values, total organic carbon contents and major and trace elements in a distal section spanning the KPgB (Agost, SE Spain). The studied Agost section is an ~32 cm-thick bathyal sequence of marlstones, clays and marly limestones, and high sedimentation rates allow high (cm) resolution analysis. These analyses exhibit sample-to-sample variability, but there are few significant differences between pre- and post-KPgB biomarker assemblages, suggesting a rapid recovery of the non-fossilizing phytoplankton community after the KPgB. Despite the persistence of life, the organic matter assemblage is rather variable through the first 10 kyr after the impact event. This interval is associated with changing terrigenous and petrogenic inputs as well as varying redox conditions as reflected by the enrichment factor of uranium (UEF) vs that of molybdenum (MoEF) as well as biomarker indices (gammacerane and homohopane indices). Moreover, sterane distributions do differ between pre- and post-KPgB sediments. Thus, the KPgB impact did affect environmental conditions and non-fossilizing algal and bacterial communities even in distal sites, but these organisms appear to have rapidly recovered, within 10 kyr after the KPgB.
Original languageEnglish
JournalPalaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 2021


  • Cretaceous/Paleogene boundary
  • Organic matter sources
  • Phytoplankton and bacterial communities
  • High-resolution paleoenvironmental reconstruction
  • Thermal maturity

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