One of the puzzles about the end-Cretaceous extinctions is why some organisms disappeared and others survived. A notable example is the differential extinction of ammonites and survival of nautilids, the two groups of co-occurring, externally shelled cephalopods at the end of the Cretaceous. To investigate the role of geographic distribution in explaining this outcome, we compiled a database of all the occurrences of ammonites and the nautilid genus Eutrephoceras in the last 0.5 m.y. of the Maastrichtian. We also included recently published data on ammonite genera that appear to have briefly survived into the Paleocene. Using two metrics to evaluate the geographic range of each genus (first, a convex hull encompassing all of the occurrences of each genus, and second, the maximum distance between occurrences for each genus), we documented that most ammonite genera at the end of the Maastrichtian were restricted in their geographic distribution, possibly making them more vulnerable to extinction. The geographic distribution of those genera that may have briefly survived into the Paleocene is significantly greater than that of non-surviving genera, implying that more broadly distributed genera were more resistant to extinction. This pattern is further emphasized by the broad distribution of Eutrephoceras, which matches that of the most widely distributed ammonites at the end of the Maastrichtian. However, even the most widely distributed ammonites eventually succumbed to extinction, whereas Eutrephoceras survived. Evidently, a broad geographic distribution may have initially protected some ammonites against extinction, but it did not guarantee their survival.
- Received 15 April 2014.
- Revision received 28 May 2014.
- Accepted 2 June 2014.
- © Geological Society of America