Environmental conditions during the Frasnian-Fammenian mass extinction inferred from chlorophyll-derived porphyrin biomarkers.
Abstract:The widespread mass extinction that occurred across the Frasnian- Fammenian (F-F) boundary was one of the largest losses of biodiversity in Earth’s history. The F-F extinction interval is expressed in western New York State by two organic rich black shale intervals known as the Upper and Lower Kellwasser events. These shale intervals are well preserved, thermally immature, and are well constrained in age by conodont biostratigraphy, and thus provide an exceptional opportunity to study the organic material originating from the F-F boundary. In order to test hypotheses about the cause(s) and consequences of the FF biotic crisis, a broader knowledge of the organic carbon sources is needed, and a characterization of the marine primary producer communities will assist in this endeavor. One such avenue is through the study of chlorophyll-derived biomarkers (porphyrins).
The organic extracts of powdered shale samples from the Kellwasser horizons were analyzed using HPLC/LC-MSn and diode array UV-Vis spectroscopy. Preliminary data from the Kellwasser intervals reveal only one porphyrin, with a mass (M+H) of 600. The UV-Vis absorbance spectrum (Soret = 405nm,
α = 533nm, β = 570nm) of the metallated compound is consistent with that of a vanadyl porphyrin with a free-base (M+H) of 535. Collision-induced mass spectra displays mass losses of 43 and 57 daltons, which are consistent with an extended alkyl chain at the C-8 position. Extended alkyl chains at C-8 are exclusively associated with porphyrins derived from bacteriochlorophyll c, d or e. The presence of bacterioporphyrins is congruous with the episodic presence of anoxic and sulfidic conditions in the photic zone. What is surprising is that a bacteriochlorophyll- derived porphyrin is the most abundant in these sequences, and their study may help to elucidate the conditions surrounding the F-F mass extinction, and further constrain the fluctuations in marine oxygen content in the Upper Devonian Appalachian Basin.