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Late Eocene impact microspherules: Stratigraphy, age and geochemistry

March 1, 1987

Recent discoveries of microtektite and related crystal bearing microspherule layers in deep-sea sediments of the west equatorial Pacific DSDP Sites 292, 315A and 462, off-shore New Jersey in Site 612 and in southern Spain have confirmed the presence of at least three microspherule layers in Late Eocene sediments. Moreover, these discoveries have extended the North American strewn field from the Caribbean and Gulf of Mexico region to the northwest Atlantic, and have established a third strewn field in western equatorial Pacific and Indian Ocean which may extend to the Mediterranean.

Stratigraphically the oldest microspherule layer occurs in the planktonic foraminifer Globigerapsis semiinvoluta Zone about 0.5 m.y. prior to the closely spaced crystal bearing microspherule layer and North American microtektite layer in the Globorotalia cerroazulensis Zone. Major element composition of the G. semiinvoluta Zone layer and the crystal bearing microspherule layer overlap, but there is a clear trend towards higher Al2O3 and FeO values in SiO2 equivalent microspherules of the latter layer. The G. semiinvoluta Zone microspherules also contain a higher percentage of non-crystalline spherules (microtektites) than the crystal bearing microspherule layer, but lower than the North American microtektite layer. Excess iridium due to an abrupt increase in supply is associated with the middle crystal bearing microspherule layer and to a lesser extent with the other two layers. But, Ir excess due to concentration as a result of carbonate loss was also observed at two sites (462, 612).

The three late Eocene microspherule layers do not precisely coincide with planktonic foraminiferal species extinctions, but a major faunal assemblage change is associated with the G. semiinvoluta Zone layer. Abundant pyrite is present in the North American microtektite layer of DSDP Site 612 suggesting reducing conditions possibly due to a sudden influx of biologic matter (dead bodies) to the ocean floor, and the crystal bearing microspherule layer coincides with five radiolarian extinctions. All three microspherule layers are associated with decreased carbonate possibly due to sudden productivity changes, increased dissolution as a result of sea-level and climate fluctuations, or the impact events.

Publication Year 1987
Title Late Eocene impact microspherules: Stratigraphy, age and geochemistry
DOI 10.1111/j.1945-5100.1987.tb00883.x
Authors G. Keller, Steven L. D'Hondt, C. J. Orth, J. S. Gilmore, P. Q. Oliver, Eugene Merle Shoemaker, E. Molina
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Meteoritics
Index ID 70226739
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse