James D. Witts

James D. Witts
University of Bristol | UB · School of Earth Sciences

PhD (Palaeontology)

About

60
Publications
10,419
Reads
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308
Citations
Introduction
I am a palaeontologist and geochemist who uses marine macrofossils (particularly ammonoid cephalopods) to study macroevolution, ecology, and the fate of organisms and ecosystems worldwide during mass extinctions - especially the Cretaceous-Paleogene (K-Pg) event. I have active research projects using field collections from the US Western Interior, US Gulf and Atlantic Coastal Plains, and Seymour Island (Antarctica). Please message me for copies of papers not available through ResearchGate.
Additional affiliations
July 2021 - present
University of Bristol
Position
  • Lecturer in Palaeontology
December 2018 - December 2020
University of New Mexico
Position
  • PostDoc Position
December 2016 - December 2018
American Museum of Natural History
Position
  • PostDoc Position
Education
September 2005 - June 2009
The University of Manchester
Field of study
  • MEarthSci (Earth Sciences) 1st class

Publications

Publications (60)
Article
Full-text available
Mass extinction at the Cretaceous-Paleogene (K-Pg) boundary coincides with the Chicxulub bolide impact and also falls within the broader time frame of Deccan trap emplacement. Critically, though, empirical evidence as to how either of these factors could have driven observed extinction patterns and carbon cycle perturbations is still lacking. Here,...
Article
Full-text available
We report on new collections of cephalopods (ammonites and nautilids) from the Cretaceous-Paleogene (K-Pg) successions of the Corsicana and Kincaid formations exposed along the Brazos River in Falls County, Texas. An abundant fauna of eight species comprising four genera of ammonites is described from the Corsicana Formation, including Discoscaphit...
Article
Methane seeps host rich biotic communities, forming patchy yet highly productive ecosystems across the global ocean. Persistent hydrocarbon emissions fuel chemosynthetic food webs at seeps. Methane seeps were abundant in the Western Interior Seaway of North America during the Late Cretaceous. This area also experienced intermittent ash falls, which...
Article
Full-text available
Sulfate aerosols have long been implicated as a primary forcing agent of climate change and mass extinction in the aftermath of the end-Cretaceous Chicxulub bolide impact. However, uncertainty remains regarding the quantity, residence time, and degree to which impact-derived sulfur transited the stratosphere, where its climatic impact would have be...
Article
Full-text available
We examine temporal and spatial variation in morphology of the ammonoid cephalopod Discoscaphites iris using a large dataset from multiple localities in the Late Cretaceous (Maastrichtian) of the U.S. Gulf and Atlantic Coastal Plains, spanning a distance of 2000 km along the paleoshoreline. Our results suggest that the fossil record of D. iris is c...
Article
Extinction of species, and even clades, is a normal part of the macroevolutionary process. However, several times in Earth history the rate of species and clade extinctions increased dramatically compared to the observed “background” extinction rate. Such episodes are global, short-lived, and associated with substantial environmental changes, espec...
Article
Upper Cretaceous marine sequences in the Gulf Coastal Plain (USA) span the Cretaceous–Paleogene (K–Pg) transition, allowing for detailed studies of one of the most severe extinction events of the Phanerozoic. To improve the temporal resolution of the stratigraphic record that represents environmental change leading up to the K–Pg boundary, we const...
Conference Paper
Gastropods of the genus Turritella sensu lato are abundant and diverse in many benthic marine communities in the Late Cretaceous and Early Paleocene worldwide, including the U.S. Gulf Coastal Plain (GCP). Strictly using described species names, very few are known to have survived across the K-Pg boundary and none are documented as having survived t...
Article
Full-text available
Methane seeps were a common feature in the Late Cretaceous Western Interior Seaway of the United States. We document the occurrence of methane seep deposits in the Pierre Shale on the Cedar Creek Anticline in east‐central Montana for the first time. The seep deposits occur in the lowermost part of the Baculites baculus Zone (the Endocostea typica Z...
Article
Full-text available
We test for the presence of evolutionary stasis in a species of Late Cretaceous ammonoid cephalopod, Hoploscaphites nicolletii, from the North American Western Interior Seaway. A comprehensive dataset of morphological traits was compiled across the entire spatial and temporal range of this species. These were analysed in conjunction with sedimentol...
Article
Full-text available
Cold methane seeps were common in the Late Cretaceous Western Interior Seaway of North America. They provided a habitat for a diverse array of fauna including ammonites. Recent research has demonstrated that ammonites lived at these sites. However, it is still unknown if they hatched at the seeps or only arrived there later in ontogeny. To answer t...
Article
Full-text available
Taxonomic and ecological recovery from the Cretaceous–Palaeogene (K–Pg) mass extinction 66 million years ago shaped the composition and structure of modern ecosystems. The timing and nature of recovery has been linked to many factors including palaeolatitude, geographical range, the ecology of survivors, incumbency and palaeoenvironmental setting....
Conference Paper
The Cretaceous/Paleogene boundary section in northwest Morocco is world famous for its vertebrate fossils. However, it also contains abundant ammonites (Baculites anceps). We present a lithostratigraphic and biostratigraphic column based on three sections representing the upper Maastrichtian and lower Paleocene. The sections are mostly composed of...
Poster
Full-text available
During the Late Cretaceous most of North America was covered in a broad, shallow epicontinental seaway (the Western Interior Seaway) littered with cold-methane seeps. These unique environments were most common during the middle and late Campanian time period and are concentrated in the northern part of the seaway in modern Montana, Wyoming, and Sou...
Conference Paper
Full-text available
During the Late Cretaceous most of North America was covered in a broad, shallow epicontinental seaway (the Western Interior Seaway) littered with cold-methane seeps. These unique environments were most common during the middle and late Campanian time period and are concentrated in the northern part of the seaway in modern Montana, Wyoming, and Sou...
Article
Full-text available
The shell material of marine benthic bivalves provides a sensitive archive of water chemistry immediately above the sediment–water interface, which in turn is affected by sedimentary geochemistry and redox reactions. Sulfate has a major controlling effect on sedimentary carbon cycling, particularly the processes of methane production and oxidation,...
Preprint
We describe an outcrop of the Cretaceous–Paleogene (K–Pg) boundary exposed due to construction near New Albany, Union County, Mississippi. It consists of the Owl Creek Formation and overlying Clayton Formation. The Owl Creek Formation is rich in the ammonites Discoscaphites iris and Eubaculites carinatus, which, along with biostratigraphically impo...
Article
We describe an outcrop of the Cretaceous–Paleogene (K–Pg) boundary exposed due to construction near New Albany, Union County, Mississippi. It consists of the Owl Creek Formation and overlying Clayton Formation. The Owl Creek Formation is rich in the ammonites Discoscaphites iris and Eubaculites carinatus, which, along with biostratigraphically impo...
Article
Full-text available
Ammonites, as well as other fauna, were common in methane seeps of the Late Cretaceous Western Interior Seaway (WIS) of North America. Biogeochemical processes at the seeps, in particular the anaerobic oxidation of methane, produced a dissolved inorganic carbon reservoir with a low 13C, manifested in the carbon isotope composition of the inorganic...
Preprint
One of the most expanded records to contain the final fortunes of ammonoid cephalopods is within the López de Bertodano Formation of Seymour Island, James Ross Basin, Antarctica. Located at ~65º South now, and during the Cretaceous, this sequence is the highest southern latitude onshore outcrop containing the Cretaceous–Paleogene (K–Pg) transition....
Article
Full-text available
The Cretaceous–Paleogene (K–Pg) mass extinction event 66 million years ago led to large changes to the global carbon cycle, primarily via a decrease in primary or export productivity of the oceans. However, the effects of this event and longer-term environmental changes during the Late Cretaceous on the global sulfur cycle are not well understood....
Conference Paper
Full-text available
The upper Cretaceous Pierre Shale of the US Western Interior is peppered with cold methane seep deposits. We have studied these deposits from the upper Campanian Baculites compressus and Didymoceras cheyennense zones in Custer County, South Dakota. These deposits contain an abundance of ammonites. The large concentration of ammonites and their ligh...
Conference Paper
Outcrops located along the Brazos River, Texas, which contain the Cretaceous-Paleogene (K–Pg) boundary have been extensively studied for the last 30 years, and provide critical insight into the timing and nature of the mass extinction event 66 million years ago. New investigations of the Corsicana Formation at two sites (Darting Minnow and Cottonmo...
Conference Paper
Approximately 66 mya, a bolide impact occurred near Chicxulub on the Yucatan Peninsula, Mexico. This event is thought to have caused widespread environmental perturbation, resulting in a mass extinction. Outcrops containing the Cretaceous-Paleogene (K-Pg) boundary on the U.S. Gulf Coastal Plain provide detailed information about depositional enviro...
Article
Full-text available
Seymour Island, in the James Ross Basin, Antarctica, contains a continuous succession of latest Cretaceous sediments deposited in a shallow marine environment at high latitude, making it an ideal place to study environmental changes prior to the K–Pg mass extinction. We measured major and trace elements and conducted petrographic analysis of two se...
Article
Full-text available
Debate continues about the nature of the Cretaceous–Paleogene (K–Pg) mass extinction event. An abrupt crisis triggered by a bolide impact contrasts with ideas of a more gradual extinction involving flood volcanism or climatic changes. Evidence from high latitudes has also been used to suggest that the severity of the extinction decreased from low l...
Conference Paper
BioBlitz events involve intense, usually time-limited, surveys of modern ecosystems undertaken by scientists and volunteers in a joint effort to document local biodiversity. This is used as a vehicle to engage members of the public in issues pertaining to their local environment, as well as a means of employing ‘citizen science’ to efficiently gath...
Article
One of the most expanded records to contain the final fortunes of ammonoid cephalopods is within the López de Bertodano Formation of Seymour Island, James Ross Basin, Antarctica. Located at ~ 65° South now, and during the Cretaceous, this sequence is the highest southern latitude onshore outcrop containing the Cretaceous-Paleogene (K–Pg) transition...

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Projects

Projects (2)
Project
Biostratigraphy, palaeoclimate, palaeoenvironment, palaeoecology, vegetation reconstruction, stratigraphy, sedimentology
Project
Paleoecology of marine fauna at methane-seeps in the WIS. Morphological analysis of ammonites as a proxy for paleoenvironment differences just below the KPg boundary along the WIS.