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Muon Radiation Dose and Marine Megafaunal Extinction at the end-Pliocene Supernova

By Adrian L. Melott, Franciole Marinho, Laura Paulucci

Posted 28 Dec 2017
bioRxiv DOI: 10.1101/240093 (published DOI: 10.1089/ast.2018.1902)

Considerable data and analysis support the detection of a supernova at a distance of about 50 pc, ~2.6 million years ago. This is possibly related to the extinction event around that time and is a member of a series of explosions which formed the Local Bubble in the interstellar medium. We build on the assumptions made in previous work, and propagate the muon flux from supernova-initiated cosmic rays from the surface to the depths of the ocean. We find that the radiation dose from the muons will exceed the total present surface dose from all sources at depths up to a kilometer and will persist for at least the lifetime of marine megafauna. It is reasonable to hypothesize that this increase in radiation load may have contributed to a newly documented marine megafaunal extinction at that time.

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