The overarching goal of the team-based project is to use the excellent core recovery at El Kef to investigate a number of key aspects of the Cretaceous-Tertiary mass extinction:
1. Can killing mechanisms for the different groups of plankton be identified in the immediate extinction aftermath?
2. Were there any survivors that have not been recognized previously and what is the phylogeny of the earliest Danian plankton?
3. What is the record of biota at the very base of the food chain that do not fossilize but produce diagnostic biomarkers?
4. What factors are responsible for the survivorship of benthic foraminifera on the shelf?
5. What strategies adapted planktonic species for survivorship?
6. What was the environmental aftermath of the mass extinction and how did it impact plankton recovery?
7. How long does it take recovery to occur and what are the key factors that modulate the recovery?
8. How does the shelf recovery differ from the deep ocean
To answer these questions, the group of investigators is working biotas and proxies from identical sample sets. We will combine studies of calcareous nannoplankton, dinoflagellates, planktonic and benthic foraminifera as well as organic biomarkers with proxies, including oxygen and carbon isotopes, boron and lithium isotopes, and trace elements including molybdenum, cadmium and zinc. We are also measuring organic carbon and sediment grain size.
Age control will be provided by microfossil biostratigraphy. Finally, we are using XRF scanning to attempt to extract orbital time control from the cores.