The end-Triassic mass extinction overlapped with the eruption of the Central Atlantic Magmatic Province (CAMP), and release of CO2 and other volcanic volatiles has been implicated in the extinction. However, the timing of marine biotic recovery versus CAMP eruptions remains uncertain. Here we use Hg concentrations and isotopes as indicators of CAMP volcanism in continental shelf sediments, the primary archive of faunal data. In Triassic–Jurassic strata, Muller Canyon, Nevada, Hg levels rise in the extinction interval, peak before the appearance of the first Jurassic ammonite, remain above background in association with a depauperate fauna, and fall to pre-extinction levels during significant pelagic and benthic faunal recovery. Hg isotopes display no significant mass independent fractionation within the extinction and depauperate intervals, consistent with a volcanic origin for the Hg. The Hg and palaeontological evidence from the same archive indicate that significant biotic recovery did not begin until CAMP eruptions ceased.
Thibodeau, Alyson M., Kathleen Ritterbush, Joyce A. Yager, A. Joshua West, Yadira Ibarra, David J. Bottjer, William M. Berelson, Bridget A. Bergquist, and Frank A. Corsetti. "Mercury Anomalies and the Timing of Biotic Recovery Following the End-Triassic Mass Extinction." Nature Communications (Article published online April 6, 2016). https://www.nature.com/articles/ncomms11147