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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2012 Mar 27;109(13):E738-47. doi: 10.1073/pnas.1110614109. Epub 2012 Mar 5.

Evidence from central Mexico supporting the Younger Dryas extraterrestrial impact hypothesis.

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1
Departamento de Geología y Mineralogía, Edif. U-4, Instituto de Investigaciones Metalúrgicas, Universidad Michoacana de San Nicólas de Hidalgo, C. P. 58060, Morelia, Michoacán, México.

Abstract

We report the discovery in Lake Cuitzeo in central Mexico of a black, carbon-rich, lacustrine layer, containing nanodiamonds, microspherules, and other unusual materials that date to the early Younger Dryas and are interpreted to result from an extraterrestrial impact. These proxies were found in a 27-m-long core as part of an interdisciplinary effort to extract a paleoclimate record back through the previous interglacial. Our attention focused early on an anomalous, 10-cm-thick, carbon-rich layer at a depth of 2.8 m that dates to 12.9 ka and coincides with a suite of anomalous coeval environmental and biotic changes independently recognized in other regional lake sequences. Collectively, these changes have produced the most distinctive boundary layer in the late Quaternary record. This layer contains a diverse, abundant assemblage of impact-related markers, including nanodiamonds, carbon spherules, and magnetic spherules with rapid melting/quenching textures, all reaching synchronous peaks immediately beneath a layer containing the largest peak of charcoal in the core. Analyses by multiple methods demonstrate the presence of three allotropes of nanodiamond: n-diamond, i-carbon, and hexagonal nanodiamond (lonsdaleite), in order of estimated relative abundance. This nanodiamond-rich layer is consistent with the Younger Dryas boundary layer found at numerous sites across North America, Greenland, and Western Europe. We have examined multiple hypotheses to account for these observations and find the evidence cannot be explained by any known terrestrial mechanism. It is, however, consistent with the Younger Dryas boundary impact hypothesis postulating a major extraterrestrial impact involving multiple airburst(s) and and/or ground impact(s) at 12.9 ka.

PMID:
22392980
PMCID:
PMC3324006
DOI:
10.1073/pnas.1110614109
[Indexed for MEDLINE]
Free PMC Article
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