Stable isotope record implicates aridification without warming during the late Capitanian mass extinction

Kévin Rey, Michael O. Day, Romain Amiot, Jean Goedert, Christophe Lécuyer, Judith Sealy, Bruce S. Rubidge

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14 Citations (Scopus)


The late Capitanian mass extinction (~260 million years ago) represents one of the greatest biotic perturbations of the Phanerozoic and was the earliest mass extinction to affect terrestrial tetrapods and ecosystems. In the past, this extinction has been largely associated with taxonomic loss and ecological restructuring in marine environments but more recently it has also been recognised in terrestrial ecosystems. Though various environmental mechanisms have been proposed for the former, little evidence has yet been presented for the cause of terrestrial extinctions. We determined the stable oxygen and carbon isotope compositions of dentine apatite from twenty-eight specimens of the dicynodont therapsid Diictodon feliceps, to investigate the potential role of climate in driving terrestrial tetrapod extinctions. Studied specimens were recovered from a 270 m stratigraphic interval constraining the peak in tetrapod extinction rates in the uppermost Abrahamskraal Formation in the well-sampled main Karoo Basin of South Africa. Our results demonstrate a positive excursion of δ13C values coinciding with the extinction peak that is followed by a return to pre-extinction δ13C values, suggesting a local increase in aridity at the time of the extinction. For the same time interval, the δ18O values did not demonstrate statistically significant changes, suggesting constant temperature in the South African paleoenvironment. This unusual increase in aridity but not in temperature has been interpreted as the possible result of orogenesis in the Cape Fold Mountain source along the southern margin of Gondwana.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-8
Number of pages8
JournalGondwana Research
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2018
Externally publishedYes


  • Diictodon feliceps, Capitanian mass extinction
  • Middle Permian
  • Stable isotopes, Karoo Basin


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