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Cretaceous

Cretaceous

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The Cretaceous derived from the Latin "creta" (chalk
Chalk
Chalk is a soft, white, porous sedimentary rock, a form of limestone composed of the mineral calcite. Calcite is calcium carbonate or CaCO3. It forms under reasonably deep marine conditions from the gradual accumulation of minute calcite plates shed from micro-organisms called coccolithophores....

), usually abbreviated K for its German
German language
German is a West Germanic language, related to and classified alongside English and Dutch. With an estimated 90 – 98 million native speakers, German is one of the world's major languages and is the most widely-spoken first language in the European Union....

 translation Kreide (chalk), is a geologic period and system from circa to million years (Ma) ago. In the geologic timescale, the Cretaceous follows the Jurassic
Jurassic
The Jurassic is a geologic period and system that extends from about Mya to  Mya, that is, from the end of the Triassic to the beginning of the Cretaceous. The Jurassic constitutes the middle period of the Mesozoic era, also known as the age of reptiles. The start of the period is marked by...

 period and is followed by the Paleogene
Paleogene
The Paleogene is a geologic period and system that began 65.5 ± 0.3 and ended 23.03 ± 0.05 million years ago and comprises the first part of the Cenozoic Era...

 period of the Cenozoic
Cenozoic
The Cenozoic era is the current and most recent of the three Phanerozoic geological eras and covers the period from 65.5 mya to the present. The era began in the wake of the Cretaceous–Tertiary extinction event at the end of the Cretaceous that saw the demise of the last non-avian dinosaurs and...

 era
Era
An era is a commonly used word for long period of time. When used in science, for example geology, eras denote clearly defined periods of time of arbitrary but well defined length, such as for example the Mesozoic era from 252 Ma–66 Ma, delimited by a start event and an end event. When used in...

. It is the youngest period of the Mesozoic
Mesozoic
The Mesozoic era is an interval of geological time from about 250 million years ago to about 65 million years ago. It is often referred to as the age of reptiles because reptiles, namely dinosaurs, were the dominant terrestrial and marine vertebrates of the time...

 era, and at 80 million years long, the longest period of the Phanerozoic
Phanerozoic
The Phanerozoic Eon is the current eon in the geologic timescale, and the one during which abundant animal life has existed. It covers roughly 542 million years and goes back to the time when diverse hard-shelled animals first appeared...

 Eon
Eon
-Science:* Aeon, a very long time* Eon , a collective problem solving project* Eon Mountain, in Canada* A measure of time in the geologic time scale- Fiction :* Eon , by Greg Bear...

. The end of the Cretaceous defines the boundary between the Mesozoic and Cenozoic
Cenozoic
The Cenozoic era is the current and most recent of the three Phanerozoic geological eras and covers the period from 65.5 mya to the present. The era began in the wake of the Cretaceous–Tertiary extinction event at the end of the Cretaceous that saw the demise of the last non-avian dinosaurs and...

 eras. In many languages this period is known as "chalk period".

The Cretaceous was a period with a relatively warm climate
Climate
Climate encompasses the statistics of temperature, humidity, atmospheric pressure, wind, rainfall, atmospheric particle count and other meteorological elemental measurements in a given region over long periods...

 and high eustatic sea level. The oceans and seas were populated with now extinct marine reptile
Marine reptile
Marine reptiles are reptiles which have become secondarily adapted for an aquatic or semi-aquatic life in a marine environment.The earliest marine reptiles arose in the Permian period during the Paleozoic era...

s, ammonites and rudists
Rudists
Rudists are a group of box, tube or ring shaped marine heterodont bivalves that arose during the Jurassic, and became so diverse during the Cretaceous that they were major reef-building organisms in the Tethys Ocean.- Shell description :...

; and the land by dinosaurs. At the same time, new groups of mammal
Mammal
Mammals are members of a class of air-breathing vertebrate animals characterised by the possession of endothermy, hair, three middle ear bones, and mammary glands functional in mothers with young...

s and birds as well as flowering plants appeared. The Cretaceous ended with one of the largest mass extinctions in Earth history, the K–T extinction, when many species, including non-avian dinosaurs, pterosaur
Pterosaur
Pterosaurs were flying reptiles of the clade or order Pterosauria. They existed from the late Triassic to the end of the Cretaceous Period . Pterosaurs are the earliest vertebrates known to have evolved powered flight...

s, and large marine reptiles, disappeared.

Paleogeography


During the Cretaceous, the late-Paleozoic
Paleozoic
The Paleozoic era is the earliest of three geologic eras of the Phanerozoic eon, spanning from roughly...

-to-early-Mesozoic supercontinent
Supercontinent
In geology, a supercontinent is a landmass comprising more than one continental core, or craton. The assembly of cratons and accreted terranes that form Eurasia qualifies as a supercontinent today.-History:...

 of Pangaea
Pangaea
Pangaea, Pangæa, or Pangea is hypothesized as a supercontinent that existed during the Paleozoic and Mesozoic eras about 250 million years ago, before the component continents were separated into their current configuration....

 completed its tectonic
Plate tectonics
Plate tectonics is a scientific theory that describes the large scale motions of Earth's lithosphere...

 breakup into present day continent
Continent
A continent is one of several very large landmasses on Earth. They are generally identified by convention rather than any strict criteria, with seven regions commonly regarded as continents—they are : Asia, Africa, North America, South America, Antarctica, Europe, and Australia.Plate tectonics is...

s, although their positions were substantially different at the time. As the Atlantic Ocean
Atlantic Ocean
The Atlantic Ocean is the second-largest of the world's oceanic divisions. With a total area of about , it covers approximately 20% of the Earth's surface and about 26% of its water surface area...

 widened, the convergent-margin orogenies
Orogeny
Orogeny refers to forces and events leading to a severe structural deformation of the Earth's crust due to the engagement of tectonic plates. Response to such engagement results in the formation of long tracts of highly deformed rock called orogens or orogenic belts...

 that had begun during the Jurassic
Jurassic
The Jurassic is a geologic period and system that extends from about Mya to  Mya, that is, from the end of the Triassic to the beginning of the Cretaceous. The Jurassic constitutes the middle period of the Mesozoic era, also known as the age of reptiles. The start of the period is marked by...

 continued in the North American Cordillera
American cordillera
The American Cordillera is a cordillera that consists of an essentially continuous sequence of mountain ranges that form the western "backbone" of North America, Central America, South America and Antarctica. From north to south, this sequence of overlapping and parallel ranges begins with the...

, as the Nevadan orogeny
Nevadan orogeny
The Nevadan Orogeny was a major mountain building event that took place along the western edge of ancient North America between the Mid to Late Jurassic...

 was followed by the Sevier
Sevier orogeny
The Sevier orogeny was a mountain-building event that affected western North America from Canada to the north to Mexico to the south. This orogeny was the result of convergent boundary tectonic activity between approximately 140 million years ago and 50 Ma. The Sevier River area of central Utah...

 and Laramide orogenies
Laramide orogeny
The Laramide orogeny was a period of mountain building in western North America, which started in the Late Cretaceous, 70 to 80 million years ago, and ended 35 to 55 million years ago. The exact duration and ages of beginning and end of the orogeny are in dispute, as is the cause. The Laramide...

.
Though Gondwana
Gondwana
In paleogeography, Gondwana , originally Gondwanaland, was the southernmost of two supercontinents that later became parts of the Pangaea supercontinent. It existed from approximately 510 to 180 million years ago . Gondwana is believed to have sutured between ca. 570 and 510 Mya,...

 was still intact in the beginning of the Cretaceous, it broke up as South America
South America
South America is a continent situated in the Western Hemisphere, mostly in the Southern Hemisphere, with a relatively small portion in the Northern Hemisphere. The continent is also considered a subcontinent of the Americas. It is bordered on the west by the Pacific Ocean and on the north and east...

, Antarctica and Australia
Australia
Australia , officially the Commonwealth of Australia, is a country in the Southern Hemisphere comprising the mainland of the Australian continent, the island of Tasmania, and numerous smaller islands in the Indian and Pacific Oceans. It is the world's sixth-largest country by total area...

 rifted away from Africa
Africa
Africa is the world's second largest and second most populous continent, after Asia. At about 30.2 million km² including adjacent islands, it covers 6% of the Earth's total surface area and 20.4% of the total land area...

 (though India
India
India , officially the Republic of India , is a country in South Asia. It is the seventh-largest country by geographical area, the second-most populous country with over 1.2 billion people, and the most populous democracy in the world...

 and Madagascar
Madagascar
The Republic of Madagascar is an island country located in the Indian Ocean off the southeastern coast of Africa...

 remained attached to each other); thus, the South Atlantic and Indian Ocean
Indian Ocean
The Indian Ocean is the third largest of the world's oceanic divisions, covering approximately 20% of the water on the Earth's surface. It is bounded on the north by the Indian Subcontinent and Arabian Peninsula ; on the west by eastern Africa; on the east by Indochina, the Sunda Islands, and...

s were newly formed. Such active rifting lifted great undersea mountain chains along the welts, raising eustatic sea levels worldwide. To the north of Africa the Tethys Sea continued to narrow. Broad shallow seas advanced across central North America
North America
North America is a continent wholly within the Northern Hemisphere and almost wholly within the Western Hemisphere. It is also considered a northern subcontinent of the Americas...

 (the Western Interior Seaway
Western Interior Seaway
The Western Interior Seaway, also called the Cretaceous Seaway, the Niobraran Sea, and the North American Inland Sea, was a huge inland sea that split the continent of North America into two halves, Laramidia and Appalachia, during most of the mid- and late-Cretaceous Period...

) and Europe, then receded late in the period, leaving thick marine deposits sandwiched between coal
Coal
Coal is a combustible black or brownish-black sedimentary rock usually occurring in rock strata in layers or veins called coal beds or coal seams. The harder forms, such as anthracite coal, can be regarded as metamorphic rock because of later exposure to elevated temperature and pressure...

 beds. At the peak of the Cretaceous transgression
Transgression (geology)
A marine transgression is a geologic event during which sea level rises relative to the land and the shoreline moves toward higher ground, resulting in flooding. Transgressions can be caused either by the land sinking or the ocean basins filling with water...

, one-third of Earth's present land area was submerged.

The Cretaceous is justly famous for its chalk
Chalk
Chalk is a soft, white, porous sedimentary rock, a form of limestone composed of the mineral calcite. Calcite is calcium carbonate or CaCO3. It forms under reasonably deep marine conditions from the gradual accumulation of minute calcite plates shed from micro-organisms called coccolithophores....

; indeed, more chalk formed in the Cretaceous than in any other period in the Phanerozoic
Phanerozoic
The Phanerozoic Eon is the current eon in the geologic timescale, and the one during which abundant animal life has existed. It covers roughly 542 million years and goes back to the time when diverse hard-shelled animals first appeared...

. Mid-ocean ridge
Mid-ocean ridge
A mid-ocean ridge is a general term for an underwater mountain system that consists of various mountain ranges , typically having a valley known as a rift running along its spine, formed by plate tectonics. This type of oceanic ridge is characteristic of what is known as an oceanic spreading...

 activity—or rather, the circulation of seawater through the enlarged ridges—enriched the oceans in calcium; this made the oceans more saturated, as well as increased the bioavailability of the element for calcareous nanoplankton. These widespread carbonate
Carbonate
In chemistry, a carbonate is a salt of carbonic acid, characterized by the presence of the carbonate ion, . The name may also mean an ester of carbonic acid, an organic compound containing the carbonate group C2....

s and other sedimentary deposits
Sedimentary rock
Sedimentary rock are types of rock that are formed by the deposition of material at the Earth's surface and within bodies of water. Sedimentation is the collective name for processes that cause mineral and/or organic particles to settle and accumulate or minerals to precipitate from a solution....

 make the Cretaceous rock record especially fine. Famous formations
Geologic formation
A formation or geological formation is the fundamental unit of lithostratigraphy. A formation consists of a certain number of rock strata that have a comparable lithology, facies or other similar properties...

 from North America include the rich marine fossils of Kansas
Kansas
Kansas is a US state located in the Midwestern United States. It is named after the Kansas River which flows through it, which in turn was named after the Kansa Native American tribe, which inhabited the area. The tribe's name is often said to mean "people of the wind" or "people of the south...

's Smoky Hill Chalk
Smoky Hill Chalk
The Smoky Hill Chalk Member of the Niobrara Chalk formation is a Cretaceous conservation Lagerstätte, or fossil rich geological formation, known primarily for its exceptionally well-preserved marine reptiles. The Smoky Hill Chalk Member is the uppermost of the two structural units of the Niobrara...

 Member and the terrestrial fauna of the late Cretaceous Hell Creek Formation
Hell Creek Formation
The Hell Creek Formation is an intensely-studied division of Upper Cretaceous to lower Paleocene rocks in North America, named for exposures studied along Hell Creek, near Jordan, Montana...

. Other important Cretaceous exposures occur in Europe
Europe
Europe is, by convention, one of the world's seven continents. Comprising the westernmost peninsula of Eurasia, Europe is generally 'divided' from Asia to its east by the watershed divides of the Ural and Caucasus Mountains, the Ural River, the Caspian and Black Seas, and the waterways connecting...

 (e.g., the Weald
Weald
The Weald is the name given to an area in South East England situated between the parallel chalk escarpments of the North and the South Downs. It should be regarded as three separate parts: the sandstone "High Weald" in the centre; the clay "Low Weald" periphery; and the Greensand Ridge which...

) and China
China
Chinese civilization may refer to:* China for more general discussion of the country.* Chinese culture* Greater China, the transnational community of ethnic Chinese.* History of China* Sinosphere, the area historically affected by Chinese culture...

 (the Yixian Formation
Yixian Formation
The Yixian Formation is a geological formation in Jinzhou, Liaoning, People's Republic of China, that spans 11 million years during the early Cretaceous period...

). In the area that is now India, massive lava beds called the Deccan Traps
Deccan Traps
The Deccan Traps are a large igneous province located on the Deccan Plateau of west-central India and one of the largest volcanic features on Earth. They consist of multiple layers of solidified flood basalt that together are more than thick and cover an area of and a volume of...

 were erupted in the very late Cretaceous and early Paleocene.

Climate


The Berriasian
Berriasian
In the geological timescale, the Berriasian is an age or stage of the Early or Lower Creteceous. It is the oldest or lowest subdivision in the entire Cretaceous. It spanned between 145.5 ± 4.0 Ma and 140.2 ± 3.0 Ma...

 epoch showed a cooling trend that had been seen in the last epoch of the Jurassic. There is evidence that snowfalls were common in the higher latitudes and the tropics became wetter than during the Triassic and Jurassic. Glaciation was however restricted to alpine glacier
Glacier
A glacier is a large persistent body of ice that forms where the accumulation of snow exceeds its ablation over many years, often centuries. At least 0.1 km² in area and 50 m thick, but often much larger, a glacier slowly deforms and flows due to stresses induced by its weight...

s on some high-latitude
Latitude
In geography, the latitude of a location on the Earth is the angular distance of that location south or north of the Equator. The latitude is an angle, and is usually measured in degrees . The equator has a latitude of 0°, the North pole has a latitude of 90° north , and the South pole has a...

 mountains, though seasonal snow may have existed farther south. Rafting by ice of stones into marine environments occurred during much of the Cretaceous but evidence of deposition directly from glaciers is limited to the Early Cretaceous of the Eromanga Basin in southern Australia.

After the end of the Berriasian, however, temperatures increased again, and these conditions were almost constant until the end of the period. This trend was due to intense volcanic activity which produced large quantities of carbon dioxide
Carbon dioxide
Carbon dioxide is a naturally occurring chemical compound composed of two oxygen atoms covalently bonded to a single carbon atom...

. The production of large quantities of magma, variously attributed to mantle plume
Mantle plume
A mantle plume is a hypothetical thermal diapir of abnormally hot rock that nucleates at the core-mantle boundary and rises through the Earth's mantle. Such plumes were invoked in 1971 to explain volcanic regions that were not thought to be explicable by the then-new theory of plate tectonics. Some...

s or to extensional tectonics, further pushed sea levels up, so that large areas of the continental crust were covered with shallow seas. The Tethys Sea connecting the tropical oceans east to west also helped in warming the global climate. Warm-adapted plant fossils are known from localities as far north as Alaska
Alaska
Alaska is the largest state in the United States by area. It is situated in the northwest extremity of the North American continent, with Canada to the east, the Arctic Ocean to the north, and the Pacific Ocean to the west and south, with Russia further west across the Bering Strait...

 and Greenland
Greenland
Greenland is an autonomous country within the Kingdom of Denmark, located between the Arctic and Atlantic Oceans, east of the Canadian Arctic Archipelago. Though physiographically a part of the continent of North America, Greenland has been politically and culturally associated with Europe for...

, while dinosaur
Dinosaur
Dinosaurs are a diverse group of animals of the clade and superorder Dinosauria. They were the dominant terrestrial vertebrates for over 160 million years, from the late Triassic period until the end of the Cretaceous , when the Cretaceous–Paleogene extinction event led to the extinction of...

 fossils have been found within 15 degrees of the Cretaceous south pole
South Pole
The South Pole, also known as the Geographic South Pole or Terrestrial South Pole, is one of the two points where the Earth's axis of rotation intersects its surface. It is the southernmost point on the surface of the Earth and lies on the opposite side of the Earth from the North Pole...

.

A very gentle temperature gradient
Temperature gradient
A temperature gradient is a physical quantity that describes in which direction and at what rate the temperature changes the most rapidly around a particular location. The temperature gradient is a dimensional quantity expressed in units of degrees per unit length...

 from the equator
Equator
An equator is the intersection of a sphere's surface with the plane perpendicular to the sphere's axis of rotation and containing the sphere's center of mass....

 to the poles meant weaker global winds, contributing to less upwelling
Upwelling
Upwelling is an oceanographic phenomenon that involves wind-driven motion of dense, cooler, and usually nutrient-rich water towards the ocean surface, replacing the warmer, usually nutrient-depleted surface water. The increased availability in upwelling regions results in high levels of primary...

 and more stagnant ocean
Ocean
An ocean is a major body of saline water, and a principal component of the hydrosphere. Approximately 71% of the Earth's surface is covered by ocean, a continuous body of water that is customarily divided into several principal oceans and smaller seas.More than half of this area is over 3,000...

s than today. This is evidenced by widespread black shale
Shale
Shale is a fine-grained, clastic sedimentary rock composed of mud that is a mix of flakes of clay minerals and tiny fragments of other minerals, especially quartz and calcite. The ratio of clay to other minerals is variable. Shale is characterized by breaks along thin laminae or parallel layering...

 deposition and frequent anoxic event
Anoxic event
Oceanic anoxic events or anoxic events occur when the Earth's oceans become completely depleted of oxygen below the surface levels. Although anoxic events have not happened for millions of years, the geological record shows that they happened many times in the past. Anoxic events may have caused...

s. Sediment cores show that tropical sea surface temperature
Sea surface temperature
Sea surface temperature is the water temperature close to the oceans surface. The exact meaning of surface varies according to the measurement method used, but it is between and below the sea surface. Air masses in the Earth's atmosphere are highly modified by sea surface temperatures within a...

s may have briefly been as warm as 42 °C (107 °F), 17 °C (31 °F) warmer than at present, and that they averaged around 37 °C (99 °F). Meanwhile deep ocean temperatures were as much as 15 to 20 °C (27 to 36 °F) higher than today's.

Research history


The Cretaceous as a separate period was first defined by a Belgian geologist Jean d'Omalius d'Halloy
Jean Baptiste Julien d'Omalius d'Halloy
Jean Baptiste Julien d'Omalius d'Halloy was a Belgian geologist. He also wrote on races.- Early life and education :He was born at Liège, Belgium on February 16, 1783. He was the only son of an ancient and noble family, and his education was carefully directed...

 in 1822, using strata
Stratum
In geology and related fields, a stratum is a layer of sedimentary rock or soil with internally consistent characteristics that distinguish it from other layers...

 in the Paris Basin
Paris Basin (geology)
The Paris Basin is one of the major geological regions of France having developed since the Triassic on a basement formed by the Variscan orogeny.-Extent:...

 and named for the extensive beds of chalk
Chalk
Chalk is a soft, white, porous sedimentary rock, a form of limestone composed of the mineral calcite. Calcite is calcium carbonate or CaCO3. It forms under reasonably deep marine conditions from the gradual accumulation of minute calcite plates shed from micro-organisms called coccolithophores....

 (calcium carbonate
Calcium carbonate
Calcium carbonate is a chemical compound with the formula CaCO3. It is a common substance found in rocks in all parts of the world, and is the main component of shells of marine organisms, snails, coal balls, pearls, and eggshells. Calcium carbonate is the active ingredient in agricultural lime,...

 deposited by the shells of marine invertebrate
Invertebrate
An invertebrate is an animal without a backbone. The group includes 97% of all animal species – all animals except those in the chordate subphylum Vertebrata .Invertebrates form a paraphyletic group...

s, principally coccoliths), found in the upper Cretaceous of western Europe
Europe
Europe is, by convention, one of the world's seven continents. Comprising the westernmost peninsula of Eurasia, Europe is generally 'divided' from Asia to its east by the watershed divides of the Ural and Caucasus Mountains, the Ural River, the Caspian and Black Seas, and the waterways connecting...

. The name Cretaceous was derived from Latin
Latin
Latin is an Italic language originally spoken in Latium and Ancient Rome. It, along with most European languages, is a descendant of the ancient Proto-Indo-European language. Although it is considered a dead language, a number of scholars and members of the Christian clergy speak it fluently, and...

 creta, meaning chalk. The name of the island Crete
Crete
Crete is the largest and most populous of the Greek islands, the fifth largest island in the Mediterranean Sea, and one of the thirteen administrative regions of Greece. It forms a significant part of the economy and cultural heritage of Greece while retaining its own local cultural traits...

 has the same origin.

Stratigraphic subdivisions


The Cretaceous is divided into Early
Early Cretaceous
The Early Cretaceous or the Lower Cretaceous , is the earlier or lower of the two major divisions of the Cretaceous...

 and Late Cretaceous
Late Cretaceous
The Late Cretaceous is the younger of two epochs into which the Cretaceous period is divided in the geologic timescale. Rock strata from this epoch form the Upper Cretaceous series...

 epochs
Epoch (geology)
An epoch is a subdivision of the geologic timescale based on rock layering. In order, the higher subdivisions are periods, eras and eons. We are currently living in the Holocene epoch...

 or Lower and Upper Cretaceous series
Series (stratigraphy)
Series are subdivisions of rock layers made based on the age of the rock and corresponding to the dating system unit called an epoch, both being formally defined international conventions of the geological timescale. A series is therefore a sequence of rock depositions defining a...

. In older literature the Cretaceous is sometimes divided into three series: Neocomian
Neocomian
In geology, Neocomian was a name given to the lowest stage of the Cretaceous system. It was introduced by Jules Thurmann in 1835 on account of the development of these rocks at Neuchâtel , Switzerland. It has been employed in more than one sense. In the type area the rocks have been divided into...

 (lower/early), Gallic (middle) and Senonian (upper/late). A subdivision in eleven stages, all originating from European stratigraphy, is now used worldwide. In many parts of the world, alternative local subdivisions are still in use.

As with other older geologic periods, the rock beds of the Cretaceous are well identified but the exact ages of the system's top and base are uncertain by a few million years. No great extinction
Extinction
In biology and ecology, extinction is the end of an organism or of a group of organisms , normally a species. The moment of extinction is generally considered to be the death of the last individual of the species, although the capacity to breed and recover may have been lost before this point...

 or burst of diversity separates the Cretaceous from the Jurassic. However, the top of the system is sharply defined, being placed at an iridium
Iridium
Iridium is the chemical element with atomic number 77, and is represented by the symbol Ir. A very hard, brittle, silvery-white transition metal of the platinum family, iridium is the second-densest element and is the most corrosion-resistant metal, even at temperatures as high as 2000 °C...

-rich layer found worldwide that is believed to be associated with the Chicxulub impact crater
Chicxulub Crater
The Chicxulub crater is an ancient impact crater buried underneath the Yucatán Peninsula in Mexico. Its center is located near the town of Chicxulub, after which the crater is named...

 in Yucatan
Yucatán
Yucatán officially Estado Libre y Soberano de Yucatán is one of the 31 states which, with the Federal District, comprise the 32 Federal Entities of Mexico. It is divided in 106 municipalities and its capital city is Mérida....

 and the Gulf of Mexico
Gulf of Mexico
The Gulf of Mexico is a partially landlocked ocean basin largely surrounded by the North American continent and the island of Cuba. It is bounded on the northeast, north and northwest by the Gulf Coast of the United States, on the southwest and south by Mexico, and on the southeast by Cuba. In...

. This layer has been tightly dated at 65.5 Ma.

Rock formations



The high eustatic sea level and warm climate of the Cretaceous meant a large area of the continents was covered by warm shallow seas. The Cretaceous was named for the extensive chalk deposits of this age in Europe, but in many parts of the world, the Cretaceous system consists for a major part of marine limestone
Limestone
Limestone is a sedimentary rock composed largely of the minerals calcite and aragonite, which are different crystal forms of calcium carbonate . Many limestones are composed from skeletal fragments of marine organisms such as coral or foraminifera....

, a rock type that is formed under warm, shallow marine circumstances. Due to the high sea level there was extensive accommodation space for sedimentation
Sedimentation
Sedimentation is the tendency for particles in suspension to settle out of the fluid in which they are entrained, and come to rest against a barrier. This is due to their motion through the fluid in response to the forces acting on them: these forces can be due to gravity, centrifugal acceleration...

 so that thick deposits could form. Because of the relatively young age and great thickness of the system, Cretaceous rocks crop out in many areas worldwide.

Chalk
Chalk
Chalk is a soft, white, porous sedimentary rock, a form of limestone composed of the mineral calcite. Calcite is calcium carbonate or CaCO3. It forms under reasonably deep marine conditions from the gradual accumulation of minute calcite plates shed from micro-organisms called coccolithophores....

 is a rock type characteristic for (but not restricted to) the Cretaceous. It consists of coccolith
Coccolith
Coccoliths are individual plates of calcium carbonate formed by coccolithophores which are arranged around them in a coccosphere.- Formation and composition :...

s, microscopically small calcite
Calcite
Calcite is a carbonate mineral and the most stable polymorph of calcium carbonate . The other polymorphs are the minerals aragonite and vaterite. Aragonite will change to calcite at 380-470°C, and vaterite is even less stable.-Properties:...

 skeletons of coccolithophore
Coccolithophore
Coccolithophores are single-celled algae, protists, and phytoplankton belonging to the division of haptophytes. They are distinguished by special calcium carbonate plates of uncertain function called coccoliths , which are important microfossils...

s, a type of algae
Algae
Algae are a large and diverse group of simple, typically autotrophic organisms, ranging from unicellular to multicellular forms, such as the giant kelps that grow to 65 meters in length. They are photosynthetic like plants, and "simple" because their tissues are not organized into the many...

 that prospered in the Cretaceous seas.

In northwestern Europe, chalk deposits from the Upper Cretaceous are characteristic for the Chalk Group, which forms the white cliffs of Dover
White cliffs of Dover
The White Cliffs of Dover are cliffs which form part of the British coastline facing the Strait of Dover and France. The cliffs are part of the North Downs formation. The cliff face, which reaches up to , owes its striking façade to its composition of chalk accentuated by streaks of black flint...

 on the south coast of England
England
England is a country that is part of the United Kingdom. It shares land borders with Scotland to the north and Wales to the west; the Irish Sea is to the north west, the Celtic Sea to the south west, with the North Sea to the east and the English Channel to the south separating it from continental...

 and similar cliffs on the French
France
The French Republic , The French Republic , The French Republic , (commonly known as France , is a unitary semi-presidential republic in Western Europe with several overseas territories and islands located on other continents and in the Indian, Pacific, and Atlantic oceans. Metropolitan France...

 Normandian
Normandy
Normandy is a geographical region corresponding to the former Duchy of Normandy. It is in France.The continental territory covers 30,627 km² and forms the preponderant part of Normandy and roughly 5% of the territory of France. It is divided for administrative purposes into two régions:...

 coast. The group
Group (stratigraphy)
A group in stratigraphy is a lithostratigraphic unit, a part of the geologic record or rock column that consists of defined rock strata. Groups are divided into formations and are sometimes themselves grouped into "supergroups"....

 is found in England, northern France, the low countries
Low Countries
The Low Countries are the historical lands around the low-lying delta of the Rhine, Scheldt, and Meuse rivers, including the modern countries of Belgium, the Netherlands, Luxembourg and parts of northern France and western Germany....

, northern Germany
Germany
Germany , officially the Federal Republic of Germany , is a federal parliamentary republic in Europe. The country consists of 16 states while the capital and largest city is Berlin. Germany covers an area of 357,021 km2 and has a largely temperate seasonal climate...

, Denmark
Denmark
Denmark is a Scandinavian country in Northern Europe. The countries of Denmark and Greenland, as well as the Faroe Islands, constitute the Kingdom of Denmark . It is the southernmost of the Nordic countries, southwest of Sweden and south of Norway, and bordered to the south by Germany. Denmark...

 and in the subsurface of the southern part of the North Sea
North Sea
In the southwest, beyond the Straits of Dover, the North Sea becomes the English Channel connecting to the Atlantic Ocean. In the east, it connects to the Baltic Sea via the Skagerrak and Kattegat, narrow straits that separate Denmark from Norway and Sweden respectively...

. Chalk is not easily consolidated and the Chalk Group still consists of loose sediments in many places. The group also has other limestone
Limestone
Limestone is a sedimentary rock composed largely of the minerals calcite and aragonite, which are different crystal forms of calcium carbonate . Many limestones are composed from skeletal fragments of marine organisms such as coral or foraminifera....

s and arenite
Arenite
Arenite is a sedimentary clastic rock with sand grain size between 0.0625 mm and 2 mm and contain less than 15% matrix. The related adjective is arenaceous...

s. Among the fossils it contains are sea urchin
Sea urchin
Sea urchins or urchins are small, spiny, globular animals which, with their close kin, such as sand dollars, constitute the class Echinoidea of the echinoderm phylum. They inhabit all oceans. Their shell, or "test", is round and spiny, typically from across. Common colors include black and dull...

s, belemnites, ammonites and sea reptiles such as Mosasaurus
Mosasaurus
Mosasaurus is a genus of mosasaur, carnivorous, aquatic lizards, somewhat resembling flippered crocodiles, with elongated heavy jaws. The genus existed during the Maastrichtian age of the Cretaceous period , around 70-65 millions years ago in the area of modern Western Europe and North America...

.

In southern Europe, the Cretaceous is usually a marine system consisting of competent
Competence (geology)
In geology competence refers to the degree of resistance of rocks to either erosion or deformation in terms of relative mechanical strength. In mining 'competent rocks' are those in which an unsupported opening can be made. Competent rocks are more commonly exposed at outcrop as they tend to form...

 limestone beds or incompetent marl
Marl
Marl or marlstone is a calcium carbonate or lime-rich mud or mudstone which contains variable amounts of clays and aragonite. Marl was originally an old term loosely applied to a variety of materials, most of which occur as loose, earthy deposits consisting chiefly of an intimate mixture of clay...

s. Because the Alpine mountain chains
Alpine orogeny
The Alpine orogeny is an orogenic phase in the Late Mesozoic and Tertiary that formed the mountain ranges of the Alpide belt...

 did not yet exist in the Cretaceous, these deposits formed on the southern edge of the European continental shelf
Continental shelf
The continental shelf is the extended perimeter of each continent and associated coastal plain. Much of the shelf was exposed during glacial periods, but is now submerged under relatively shallow seas and gulfs, and was similarly submerged during other interglacial periods. The continental margin,...

, at the margin of the Tethys Ocean
Tethys Ocean
The Tethys Ocean was an ocean that existed between the continents of Gondwana and Laurasia during the Mesozoic era before the opening of the Indian Ocean.-Modern theory:...

.

Stagnation of deep sea currents in middle Cretaceous times caused anoxic conditions in the sea water. In many places around the world, dark anoxic shale
Shale
Shale is a fine-grained, clastic sedimentary rock composed of mud that is a mix of flakes of clay minerals and tiny fragments of other minerals, especially quartz and calcite. The ratio of clay to other minerals is variable. Shale is characterized by breaks along thin laminae or parallel layering...

s were formed during this interval. These shales are an important source rock
Source rock
In petroleum geology, source rock refers to rocks from which hydrocarbons have been generated or are capable of being generated. They form one of the necessary elements of a working petroleum system. They are organic-rich sediments that may have been deposited in a variety of environments including...

 for oil and gas, for example in the subsurface of the North Sea.

Plants


Flowering plants (angiosperms) spread during this period, although they did not become predominant until the Campanian
Campanian
The Campanian is, in the ICS' geologic timescale, the fifth of six ages of the Late Cretaceous epoch . The Campanian spans the time from 83.5 ± 0.7 Ma to 70.6 ± 0.6 Ma ...

 stage near the end of the epoch. Their evolution was aided by the appearance of bee
Bee
Bees are flying insects closely related to wasps and ants, and are known for their role in pollination and for producing honey and beeswax. Bees are a monophyletic lineage within the superfamily Apoidea, presently classified by the unranked taxon name Anthophila...

s; in fact angiosperms and insects are a good example of coevolution. The first representatives of many leafy trees, including fig
Ficus
Ficus is a genus of about 850 species of woody trees, shrubs, vines, epiphytes, and hemiepiphyte in the family Moraceae. Collectively known as fig trees or figs, they are native throughout the tropics with a few species extending into the semi-warm temperate zone. The Common Fig Ficus is a genus of...

s, planes
Platanus
Platanus is a small genus of trees native to the Northern Hemisphere. They are the sole living members of the family Platanaceae....

 and magnolia
Magnolia
Magnolia is a large genus of about 210 flowering plant species in the subfamily Magnolioideae of the family Magnoliaceae. It is named after French botanist Pierre Magnol....

s, appeared in the Cretaceous. At the same time, some earlier Mesozoic gymnosperm
Gymnosperm
The gymnosperms are a group of seed-bearing plants that includes conifers, cycads, Ginkgo, and Gnetales. The term "gymnosperm" comes from the Greek word gymnospermos , meaning "naked seeds", after the unenclosed condition of their seeds...

s like Conifers continued to thrive; pehuéns (Monkey Puzzle trees, Araucaria
Araucaria
Araucaria is a genus of evergreen coniferous trees in the family Araucariaceae. There are 19 extant species in the genus, with a highly disjunct distribution in New Caledonia , Norfolk Island, eastern Australia, New Guinea, Argentina, Chile, and southern Brazil.-Description:Araucaria are mainly...

) and other conifers being notably plentiful and widespread. Some fern orders such as Gleicheniales appeared as early in the fossil record as the Cretaceous, and achieved an early broad distribution. Gymnosperm taxa like Bennettitales
Bennettitales
Bennettitales is an extinct order of seed plants that first appeared in the Triassic period and became extinct toward the end of the Cretaceous...

 died out before the end of the period.

Terrestrial fauna





On land, mammal
Mammal
Mammals are members of a class of air-breathing vertebrate animals characterised by the possession of endothermy, hair, three middle ear bones, and mammary glands functional in mothers with young...

s were a small and still relatively minor component of the fauna. Early marsupial
Marsupial
Marsupials are an infraclass of mammals, characterized by giving birth to relatively undeveloped young. Close to 70% of the 334 extant species occur in Australia, New Guinea, and nearby islands, with the remaining 100 found in the Americas, primarily in South America, but with thirteen in Central...

 mammals evolved in the Early Cretaceous, with true placentals emerging in the Late Cretaceous period. The fauna was dominated by archosaur
Archosaur
Archosaurs are a group of diapsid amniotes whose living representatives consist of modern birds and crocodilians. This group also includes all extinct non-avian dinosaurs, many extinct crocodilian relatives, and pterosaurs. Archosauria, the archosaur clade, is a crown group that includes the most...

ian reptile
Reptile
Reptiles are members of a class of air-breathing, ectothermic vertebrates which are characterized by laying shelled eggs , and having skin covered in scales and/or scutes. They are tetrapods, either having four limbs or being descended from four-limbed ancestors...

s, especially dinosaur
Dinosaur
Dinosaurs are a diverse group of animals of the clade and superorder Dinosauria. They were the dominant terrestrial vertebrates for over 160 million years, from the late Triassic period until the end of the Cretaceous , when the Cretaceous–Paleogene extinction event led to the extinction of...

s, which were at their most diverse stage. Pterosaur
Pterosaur
Pterosaurs were flying reptiles of the clade or order Pterosauria. They existed from the late Triassic to the end of the Cretaceous Period . Pterosaurs are the earliest vertebrates known to have evolved powered flight...

s were common in the early and middle Cretaceous, but as the Cretaceous proceeded they faced growing competition from the adaptive radiation
Adaptive radiation
In evolutionary biology, adaptive radiation is the evolution of ecological and phenotypic diversity within a rapidly multiplying lineage. Starting with a recent single ancestor, this process results in the speciation and phenotypic adaptation of an array of species exhibiting different...

 of bird
Bird
Birds are feathered, winged, bipedal, endothermic , egg-laying, vertebrate animals. Around 10,000 living species and 188 families makes them the most speciose class of tetrapod vertebrates. They inhabit ecosystems across the globe, from the Arctic to the Antarctic. Extant birds range in size from...

s, and by the end of the period only two highly specialized families
Family (biology)
In biological classification, family is* a taxonomic rank. Other well-known ranks are life, domain, kingdom, phylum, class, order, genus, and species, with family fitting between order and genus. As for the other well-known ranks, there is the option of an immediately lower rank, indicated by the...

 remained.

The Liaoning
Liaoning
' is a province of the People's Republic of China, located in the northeast of the country. Its one-character abbreviation is "辽" , a name taken from the Liao River that flows through the province. "Níng" means "peace"...

 lagerstätte
Lagerstätte
A Lagerstätte is a sedimentary deposit that exhibits extraordinary fossil richness or completeness.Palaeontologists distinguish two kinds....

 (Chaomidianzi formation) in China provides a glimpse of life in the Early Cretaceous, where preserved remains of numerous types of small dinosaurs, birds, and mammals have been found. The coelurosaur dinosaurs found there represent types of the group Maniraptora, which is transitional between dinosaurs and birds, and are notable for the presence of hair-like feather
Feather
Feathers are one of the epidermal growths that form the distinctive outer covering, or plumage, on birds and some non-avian theropod dinosaurs. They are considered the most complex integumentary structures found in vertebrates, and indeed a premier example of a complex evolutionary novelty. They...

s.

During the Cretaceous, insect
Insect
Insects are a class of living creatures within the arthropods that have a chitinous exoskeleton, a three-part body , three pairs of jointed legs, compound eyes, and two antennae...

s began to diversify, and the oldest known ant
Ant
Ants are social insects of the family Formicidae and, along with the related wasps and bees, belong to the order Hymenoptera. Ants evolved from wasp-like ancestors in the mid-Cretaceous period between 110 and 130 million years ago and diversified after the rise of flowering plants. More than...

s, termite
Termite
Termites are a group of eusocial insects that, until recently, were classified at the taxonomic rank of order Isoptera , but are now accepted as the epifamily Termitoidae, of the cockroach order Blattodea...

s and some lepidoptera
Lepidoptera
Lepidoptera is a large order of insects that includes moths and butterflies . It is one of the most widespread and widely recognizable insect orders in the world, encompassing moths and the three superfamilies of butterflies, skipper butterflies, and moth-butterflies...

ns, akin to butterflies and moths
Moths
Moths may refer to:* Gustav Moths , German rower* The Moths!, an English indie rock band* MOTHS, members of the Memorable Order of Tin Hats...

, appeared. Aphid
Aphid
Aphids, also known as plant lice and in Britain and the Commonwealth as greenflies, blackflies or whiteflies, are small sap sucking insects, and members of the superfamily Aphidoidea. Aphids are among the most destructive insect pests on cultivated plants in temperate regions...

s, grasshopper
Grasshopper
The grasshopper is an insect of the suborder Caelifera in the order Orthoptera. To distinguish it from bush crickets or katydids, it is sometimes referred to as the short-horned grasshopper...

s, and gall wasp
Gall wasp
Gall wasps , also called Gallflies, are a family of the order Hymenoptera and are classified with the Apocrita suborder of wasps in the superfamily Cynipoidea...

s appeared.

Marine fauna





In the seas, rays
Batoidea
Batoidea is a superorder of cartilaginous fish commonly known as rays and skates, containing more than 500 described species in thirteen families...

, modern shark
Shark
Sharks are a type of fish with a full cartilaginous skeleton and a highly streamlined body. The earliest known sharks date from more than 420 million years ago....

s and teleosts became common. Marine reptiles included ichthyosaur
Ichthyosaur
Ichthyosaurs were giant marine reptiles that resembled fish and dolphins...

s in the early and middle of the Cretaceous, becoming extinct during the late Cretaceous, plesiosaur
Plesiosaur
Plesiosauroidea is an extinct clade of carnivorous plesiosaur marine reptiles. Plesiosauroids, are known from the Jurassic and Cretaceous Periods...

s throughout the entire period, and mosasaur
Mosasaur
Mosasaurs are large extinct marine lizards. The first fossil remains were discovered in a limestone quarry at Maastricht on the Meuse in 1764...

s appearing in the Late Cretaceous.

Baculites, an ammonite
Ammonite
Ammonite, as a zoological or paleontological term, refers to any member of the Ammonoidea an extinct subclass within the Molluscan class Cephalopoda which are more closely related to living coleoids Ammonite, as a zoological or paleontological term, refers to any member of the Ammonoidea an extinct...

 genus with a straight shell, flourished in the seas along with reef-building rudist clams. The Hesperornithiformes
Hesperornithiformes
Hesperornithes is an extinct and highly specialized clade of Cretaceous toothed birds. Hesperornithine birds, apparently limited to former aquatic habitats in the Northern Hemisphere, include genera such as Hesperornis, Parahesperornis, Baptornis, Enaliornis, and probably Potamornis, all...

 were flightless, marine diving birds that swam like grebe
Grebe
A grebe is a member of the Podicipediformes order, a widely distributed order of freshwater diving birds, some of which visit the sea when migrating and in winter...

s. Globotruncanid Foraminifera
Foraminifera
The Foraminifera , or forams for short, are a large group of amoeboid protists which are among the commonest plankton species. They have reticulating pseudopods, fine strands of cytoplasm that branch and merge to form a dynamic net...

 and echinoderms such as sea urchins and starfish (sea stars) thrived. The first radiation of the diatom
Diatom
Diatoms are a major group of algae, and are one of the most common types of phytoplankton. Most diatoms are unicellular, although they can exist as colonies in the shape of filaments or ribbons , fans , zigzags , or stellate colonies . Diatoms are producers within the food chain...

s (generally siliceous
Silicon dioxide
The chemical compound silicon dioxide, also known as silica , is an oxide of silicon with the chemical formula '. It has been known for its hardness since antiquity...

, rather than calcareous
Calcareous
Calcareous is an adjective meaning mostly or partly composed of calcium carbonate, in other words, containing lime or being chalky. The term is used in a wide variety of scientific disciplines.-In zoology:...

) in the oceans occurred during the Cretaceous; freshwater diatoms did not appear until the Miocene
Miocene
The Miocene is a geological epoch of the Neogene Period and extends from about . The Miocene was named by Sir Charles Lyell. Its name comes from the Greek words and and means "less recent" because it has 18% fewer modern sea invertebrates than the Pliocene. The Miocene follows the Oligocene...

. The Cretaceous was also an important interval in the evolution of bioerosion
Bioerosion
Bioerosion describes the erosion of hard ocean substrates – and less often terrestrial substrates – by living organisms. Marine bioerosion can be caused by mollusks, polychaete worms, phoronids, sponges, crustaceans, echinoids, and fish; it can occur on coastlines, on coral reefs, and...

, the production of borings and scrapings in rocks, hardgrounds and shells (Taylor and Wilson, 2003).

Extinction




There was a progressive decline in biodiversity
Biodiversity
Biodiversity is the degree of variation of life forms within a given ecosystem, biome, or an entire planet. Biodiversity is a measure of the health of ecosystems. Biodiversity is in part a function of climate. In terrestrial habitats, tropical regions are typically rich whereas polar regions...

 during the Maastrichtian stage of the Cretaceous period prior to the suggested ecological crisis
Ecological crisis
An ecological crisis occurs when the environment of a species or a population changes in a way that destabilizes its continued survival. There are many possible causes of such crises:...

 induced by events at the K–T boundary
K–T boundary
The K–T boundary is a geological signature, usually a thin band, dated to 65.5 ± 0.3 Ma ago. K is the traditional abbreviation for the Cretaceous period, and T is the abbreviation for the Tertiary period...

. Furthermore, biodiversity required a substantial amount of time to recover from the K–T event, despite the probable existence of an abundance of vacant ecological niche
Ecological niche
In ecology, a niche is a term describing the relational position of a species or population in its ecosystem to each other; e.g. a dolphin could potentially be in another ecological niche from one that travels in a different pod if the members of these pods utilize significantly different food...

s.

Despite the severity of this boundary event, there was significant variability in the rate of extinction between and within different clades. Species which depended on photosynthesis
Photosynthesis
Photosynthesis is a chemical process that converts carbon dioxide into organic compounds, especially sugars, using the energy from sunlight. Photosynthesis occurs in plants, algae, and many species of bacteria, but not in archaea. Photosynthetic organisms are called photoautotrophs, since they can...

 declined or became extinct because of the reduction in solar energy reaching the Earth's surface due to atmospheric particles blocking the sunlight. As is the case today, photosynthesizing organisms, such as phytoplankton
Phytoplankton
Phytoplankton are the autotrophic component of the plankton community. The name comes from the Greek words φυτόν , meaning "plant", and πλαγκτός , meaning "wanderer" or "drifter". Most phytoplankton are too small to be individually seen with the unaided eye...

 and land plant
Plant
Plants are living organisms belonging to the kingdom Plantae. Precise definitions of the kingdom vary, but as the term is used here, plants include familiar organisms such as trees, flowers, herbs, bushes, grasses, vines, ferns, mosses, and green algae. The group is also called green plants or...

s, formed the primary part of the food chain
Food chain
A food web depicts feeding connections in an ecological community. Ecologists can broadly lump all life forms into one of two categories called trophic levels: 1) the autotrophs, and 2) the heterotrophs...

 in the late Cretaceous. Evidence suggests that herbivorous animals, which depended on plants and plankton as their food, died out as their food sources became scarce; consequently, top predators such as Tyrannosaurus rex
Tyrannosaurus
Tyrannosaurus meaning "tyrant," and sauros meaning "lizard") is a genus of coelurosaurian theropod dinosaur. The species Tyrannosaurus rex , commonly abbreviated to T. rex, is a fixture in popular culture. It lived throughout what is now western North America, with a much wider range than other...

also perished.

Coccolithophorids and molluscs, including ammonite
Ammonite
Ammonite, as a zoological or paleontological term, refers to any member of the Ammonoidea an extinct subclass within the Molluscan class Cephalopoda which are more closely related to living coleoids Ammonite, as a zoological or paleontological term, refers to any member of the Ammonoidea an extinct...

s, rudists, freshwater snail
Snail
Snail is a common name applied to most of the members of the molluscan class Gastropoda that have coiled shells in the adult stage. When the word is used in its most general sense, it includes sea snails, land snails and freshwater snails. The word snail without any qualifier is however more often...

s and mussel
Mussel
The common name mussel is used for members of several families of clams or bivalvia mollusca, from saltwater and freshwater habitats. These groups have in common a shell whose outline is elongated and asymmetrical compared with other edible clams, which are often more or less rounded or oval.The...

s, as well as organisms whose food chain
Food chain
A food web depicts feeding connections in an ecological community. Ecologists can broadly lump all life forms into one of two categories called trophic levels: 1) the autotrophs, and 2) the heterotrophs...

 included these shell builders, became extinct or suffered heavy losses. For example, it is thought that ammonites were the principal food of mosasaur
Mosasaur
Mosasaurs are large extinct marine lizards. The first fossil remains were discovered in a limestone quarry at Maastricht on the Meuse in 1764...

s, a group of giant marine reptiles that became extinct at the boundary.

Omnivores, insectivores and carrion
Carrion
Carrion refers to the carcass of a dead animal. Carrion is an important food source for large carnivores and omnivores in most ecosystems. Examples of carrion-eaters include vultures, hawks, eagles, hyenas, Virginia Opossum, Tasmanian Devils, coyotes, Komodo dragons, and burying beetles...

-eaters survived the extinction event, perhaps because of the increased availability of their food sources. At the end of the Cretaceous there seem to have been no purely herbivorous or carnivorous
Carnivore
A carnivore meaning 'meat eater' is an organism that derives its energy and nutrient requirements from a diet consisting mainly or exclusively of animal tissue, whether through predation or scavenging...

 mammal
Mammal
Mammals are members of a class of air-breathing vertebrate animals characterised by the possession of endothermy, hair, three middle ear bones, and mammary glands functional in mothers with young...

s. Mammals and birds which survived the extinction fed on insect
Insect
Insects are a class of living creatures within the arthropods that have a chitinous exoskeleton, a three-part body , three pairs of jointed legs, compound eyes, and two antennae...

s, larva
Larva
A larva is a distinct juvenile form many animals undergo before metamorphosis into adults. Animals with indirect development such as insects, amphibians, or cnidarians typically have a larval phase of their life cycle...

e, worm
Worm
The term worm refers to an obsolete taxon used by Carolus Linnaeus and Jean-Baptiste Lamarck for all non-arthropod invertebrate animals, and stems from the Old English word wyrm. Currently it is used to describe many different distantly-related animals that typically have a long cylindrical...

s, and snails, which in turn fed on dead plant and animal matter. Scientists theorise that these organisms survived the collapse of plant-based food chains because they fed on detritus
Detritus (biology)
In biology, detritus is non-living particulate organic material . It typically includes the bodies or fragments of dead organisms as well as fecal material. Detritus is typically colonized by communities of microorganisms which act to decompose the material...

.

In stream
Stream
A stream is a body of water with a current, confined within a bed and stream banks. Depending on its locale or certain characteristics, a stream may be referred to as a branch, brook, beck, burn, creek, "crick", gill , kill, lick, rill, river, syke, bayou, rivulet, streamage, wash, run or...

 communities
Biocoenosis
A biocoenosis , coined by Karl Möbius in 1877, describes the interacting organisms living together in a habitat . This term is rarely used in English, as this concept has not been popularized in Anglophone countries...

, few groups of animals became extinct. Stream communities rely less on food from living plants and more on detritus that washes in from land. This particular ecological niche buffered them from extinction. Similar, but more complex patterns have been found in the oceans. Extinction was more severe among animals living in the water column
Pelagic zone
Any water in a sea or lake that is not close to the bottom or near to the shore can be said to be in the pelagic zone. The word pelagic comes from the Greek πέλαγος or pélagos, which means "open sea". The pelagic zone can be thought of in terms of an imaginary cylinder or water column that goes...

, than among animals living on or in the sea floor. Animals in the water column are almost entirely dependent on primary production
Primary production
400px|thumb|Global oceanic and terrestrial photoautotroph abundance, from September [[1997]] to August 2000. As an estimate of autotroph biomass, it is only a rough indicator of primary production potential, and not an actual estimate of it...

 from living phytoplankton, while animals living on or in the ocean floor feed on detritus or can switch to detritus feeding.

The largest air-breathing survivors of the event, crocodilians and champsosaurs
Choristodera
Choristodera is an order of semi-aquatic diapsid reptiles which ranged from the Middle Jurassic, or possibly Late Triassic, to at least the early Miocene. Choristoderes have been found in North America, Asia, and Europe. The most common fossils are typically found from the Late Cretaceous to the...

, were semi-aquatic and had access to detritus. Modern crocodilians can live as scavengers and can survive for months without food and go into hibernation when conditions are unfavourable, and their young are small, grow slowly, and feed largely on invertebrates and dead organisms or fragments of organisms for their first few years. These characteristics have been linked to crocodilian survival at the end of the Cretaceous.

See also


  • Chalk Formation
    Chalk Formation
    The Chalk Group is a lithostratigraphic unit in the northwestern part of Europe. It is characterised by thick deposits of chalk, a soft porous white limestone, deposited in a marine environment during the Upper Cretaceous period.Chalk is a limestone that consists of coccolith biomicrite...

  • List of fossil sites (with link directory)
  • South Polar dinosaurs
  • Western Interior Seaway
    Western Interior Seaway
    The Western Interior Seaway, also called the Cretaceous Seaway, the Niobraran Sea, and the North American Inland Sea, was a huge inland sea that split the continent of North America into two halves, Laramidia and Appalachia, during most of the mid- and late-Cretaceous Period...

  • Cretaceous Thermal Maximum
    Cretaceous Thermal Maximum
    Cretaceous Thermal Maximum, also known as Cretaceous Thermal Optimum, was a period during Earth's history notable for its dramatic increase in global temperatures.-Characteristics:...


External links