Distribution of Iridium in Upper Triassic-Lower Jurassic Strata of the Northern Calcareous Alps, Austria

Thursday, 18 December 2014
Lawrence H Tanner, Le Moyne College, Syracuse, NY, United States, Frank T Kyte, University of California Los Angeles, Los Angeles, CA, United States and Sylvain Richoz, Austrian Academy of sciences, Graz, Austria
Samples from strata spanning the Triassic-Jurassic boundary in the classic sections at Kuhjoch and Kendlbach were studied by NAA to determine Ir levels, and the results compared to previously determined carbon isotope stratigraphy. Ir concentrations in the Kössen Formation are very low (< 10 pg/g), well below average crustal levels until the top of the formation, reaching levels of ~15 pg/g, in the T-bed at the top of the Eiberg Member. The Tiefengraben Member (Kendlbach Formation) is enriched in Ir in general relative to the strata below. The shift to higher levels is abrupt at the base of the member. Concentrations of 60 to 80 pg/g are typical through the entire thickness of the Schattwald Beds and into the gray Tiefengraben, peaking at 145 pg/g. Above 560 cm from the Tiefengraben base, concentrations decline gradually from 50 pg/g to ~30 pg/g. The analyses from the Kendlbach section compare well with those from Kuhjoch, with the same order of magnitude difference in Ir concentration between the Kössen and Kendlbach formations. The same range of Ir values (60 to 80 pg/g) is seen in the lower 200 cm of the Tiefengraben Member, with a significant decline seen above 220 cm.

In both sections, the initial increase in Ir corresponds to the initial carbon isotope excursion, considered the peak extinction horizon, but otherwise there is no clear correlation to the C-isotope data. The positive shift to background δ13C values is not accompanied by any noticeable change in Ir, however. There do appear (at least visually) to be smaller parallel shifts in both δ13C and Ir, but the shifts are of smaller magnitude. The difference between the Ir concentration in the Kössen and Kendlbach formations levels has a strong lithologic control; levels are very low carbonate versus elevated levels in siliclastics, but variations within the Kendlbach Formation are independent of lithology. Although there is no obvious evidence of volcanic input in the sections studied, we consider outgassing during eruptions of the Central Atlantic Magmatic Province, which is widely accepted as the driver of Late Triassic extinctions, a viable hypothesis to explain the origin of the slightly elevated Ir levels.