The Origin of White Beds below the Cretaceous-Tertiary Boundary Revisited
Monday, 15 December 2014: 11:20 AM
The respective roles of an asteroid impact and Deccan Traps eruptions in biotic changes at the Cretaceous-Tertiary (K-T) boundary are still debated. In many shallow marine sections around the world, the K-T boundary is marked by a distinct impact clay layer that is often underlain by a several decimeter-thick “white” low susceptibility zone. A previous study of the Gubbio section, Italy [Lowrie et al., 1990; EPSL, 98, 302-312], attributed the loss of coloration and low magnetization intensity in the white beds to post-depositional dissolution of ferrimagnetic minerals. Dissolution is thought to be a consequence of downward infiltration of reducing waters that resulted from rapid accumulation of organic matter produced by mass extinctions after the impact. We compared rock magnetic characteristics of the Gubbio section with those of the Bidart section in France. The two sections are similar in their carbonate lithology, presence of a boundary clay and low susceptibility zone. When compared to background Cretaceous sediments, the white zone in both sections is marked by an absence of biogenic magnetite, a decrease in total ferrimagnetic mineral content, and preferential loss of magnetite with respect to hematite - features that are consistent with reductive dissolution. However, unlike the Gubbio section, where the white zone starts immediately below the impact clay, at Bidart the low susceptibility zone and the clay layer are separated by a ~2 cm carbonate interval that contains abundant biogenic magnetite. Such separation casts doubt on a causal link between the impact and sediment bleaching. The white layer, thus, is more likely to record an episode of unusual bottom water chemistry that preceded the asteroid impact. A change in sea-water acidity associated with Deccan Traps volcanism may explain the magnetic mineral dissolution in the white beds.