Constraints on the numerical age of the Paleocene-Eocene boundary



Here we present combined radioisotopic dating (U-Pb zircon) and cyclostratigraphic analysis of the carbon isotope excursion at the Paleocene-Eocene (P-E) boundary in Spitsbergen to determine the numerical age of the boundary. Incorporating the total uncertainty from both radioisotopic and cyclostratigraphic data sets gives an age ranging from 55.728 to 55.964 Ma, within error of a recently proposed astronomical age of ∼55.93 Ma. Combined with the assumption that the Paleocene Epoch spans twenty-five 405 kyr cycles, our new age for the boundary suggests an age of ∼66 Ma for the Cretaceous-Paleogene boundary. Furthermore, our P-E boundary age is consistent with the hypothesis that the onset of the Paleocene-Eocene thermal maximum at the boundary occurred on the falling limb of a 405 kyr cycle, suggesting the event was initiated by a different mechanism to that which triggered the other early Eocene hyperthermals.