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Schmitz_etal-[Sediment-Dispersed Extraterrestrial Chromite Traces a Major Asteroid Disruption Event]_Sci300_2003_4

Schmitz_etal-[Sediment-Dispersed Extraterrestrial Chromite Traces a Major Asteroid Disruption Event]_Sci300_2003_4

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DOI: 10.1126/science.1082182, 961 (2003);
300
Science et al.
Birger Schmitz
Asteroid Disruption EventSediment-Dispersed Extraterrestrial Chromite Traces a Major
 
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2003 by the American Association for the Advancement of Science; all rights reserved. The titleCopyrightAmerican Association for the Advancement of Science, 1200 New York Avenue NW, Washington, DC 20005.(print ISSN 0036-8075; online ISSN 1095-9203) is published weekly, except the last week in December, by the
Science 
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References and Notes
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, 1715(1991).10. Materials and methods are available as supportingmaterial on
Science
Online.11. P. H. Boyd, E. R. Abraham,
Deep-Sea Res. II
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, 2529(2001).12. Y. Suzuki, M. Takahashi,
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et al.
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, 237 (1999).17. J. H. Martin,
Paleoceanography 
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1 (1990).18. P. W. Boyd, G. A. Jackson, A. M. Whaite,
Geophys. Res.Lett.
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etal.,GlobalBiogeochem.Cycles
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et al.
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Geophys. Res. Lett.
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et al.
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, 675 (1995).24. We thank P. J. Harrison, Y. W. Watanabe, H. J. W. deBaar, Y. Yokouchi, Y. Oozeki, C. S. Law, A. J. Watson,N. Handa, and the captain and crew of the FisheriesResearch Vessel Kaiyo-Maru. Supported by the GlobalEnvironmental Research Fund from the Ministry of Environment, the Fisheries Agency, and Central Re-search Institute of Electric Power Industry researchfunding.
Supporting Online Material
www.sciencemag.org/cgi/content/full/300/5621/958/DC1Materials and MethodsFig. S1Table S131 December 2002; accepted 4 April 2003
Sediment-DispersedExtraterrestrial Chromite Traces aMajor Asteroid Disruption Event
Birger Schmitz,
1,2
* Therese Ha¨ggstro¨m,
2
Mario Tassinari
2
Abundant extraterrestrial chromite grains from decomposed meteorites occur inmiddle Ordovician (480 million years ago) marine limestone over an area of 
ϳ
250,000 square kilometers in southern Sweden. The chromite anomaly givessupport for an increase of two orders of magnitude in the influx of meteorites toEarth during the mid-Ordovician, as previously indicated by fossil meteorites. Ex-traterrestrialchromitegrainsinmid-Ordovicianlimestonecanbeusedtoconstrainindetail the temporal variations in flux of extraterrestrial matter after one of the lar-gest asteroid disruption events in the asteroid belt in late solar-system history.
More than 40 fossil meteorites (1 to 20 cm indiameter) were recovered in mid-Ordovicianmarine limestone in the Thorsberg quarry atKinnekulle, southern Sweden (
1
). The highabundance of meteorites deposited in ancientsea-floor sediments indicates that the meteorite paleoflux was enhanced by up to two orders of magnitude as compared to the recent flux (
1
,
2
).Argon-isotope gas-retention ages of recent me-teorites show that a major asteroid disruptionevent affecting the L chondrite parent bodyoccurred in the asteroid belt at about 500 mil-lion years ago (Ma) (
3
,
4
). Relict chromitegrainswithanLchondriticcompositioninmostof the mid-Ordovician fossil meteorites indicatethat the meteorites represent the flux of objectsto Earth shortly after the break up of the Lchondrite body (
1
). We searched for dispersed extraterrestrial chromite grains from fossil me-teorites in Ordovician limestones from othesites in Sweden to determine the extent and  paleoflux of meteorites and to infer the size of the asteroid breakup event.Recent meteorites of the ordinary chon-dritic group contain typically 0.05 to 0.5% of chromite (FeCr 
2
O
4
) (
5
,
). This chromite hasa characteristic composition, with higher Tiand lower Al and Mg contents than that of terrestrial chromite (
1
,
,
8
). Equilibrated me-teorites of the three groups of ordinary chon-drites show small differences in chromitecompositions, with Fe and Ti contents in-creasing from H to L to LL chondrites (
1
,
).Chromite is a very resistant mineral that sur-vives most kinds of acid treatment, and it isalso one of the few relict minerals that occursin mid-Ordovician fossil meteorites (
1
,
8
)
.
Large samples, 7 to 45 kg, of lower tomiddle Ordovician Orthoceratite Limestone(
9
) were searched for sand-sized chromitegrains. The samples come from five sites in a500-km transect in southern Sweden: Ra¨-vana¨s, Ha¨llekis, Thorsberg quarry, Gullho¨-gen, and Degerhamn (Fig. 1). The Orthocera-tite Limestone formed at average sedimenta-tion rates of one to a few mm per thousand years in a large epicontinental sea coveringlarge parts of Baltoscandia (
9
). The limestoneis characterized by abundant hardgrounds,each representing a period of some 100 to1000 years when weak currents in the water column prevented fine-grained detritus fromsettling on the sea floor (
10
).We have focused the chromite search onthe stratigraphic interval from which fossilmeteorites have been recovered in the Thors- berg quarry (Fig. 2). The quarried 3.2-m thick interval is divided by the quarry workers into12 beds with traditional names (
1
). The quar-ried interval represents circa (ca.) 1 to 2million years (My) of sedimentation. TheArkeologen bed is the most meteorite-rich bed, with 26 meteorites found over a sea-floor area of 2700 m
2
. The overlying Bottenand Sextummen beds have yielded four and six meteorites, respectively, over 6000 m
2
of sea floor. The total recovered fossil meteor-itic mass per unit sea-floor area in the three beds is 0.81, 0.69, and 0.17 kg 1000 m
Ϫ
2
,respectively. The Thorsberg quarry spansover three conodont zones: the lowermost
 Lenodus antivariabilis
Zone, the middle
L.variabilis
Zone, and the upper 
Yangtzepla-cognathus crassus
Zone (Fig. 2) (
11
). The beds just below the Arkeologen bed belong tothe
L. antivariabilis
Zone, and the beds justabove the quarried interval belong to the
 Microzarkodina hagetiana
Subzone.From the Thorsberg quarry, we searched for chromite in limestone samples from theArkeologen, Golvsten, Botten, and Sextum-men beds (Fig. 2). The samples were collect-ed at spots in the quarry where no fossil
1
Department of Earth Science, Rice University, PostOffice Box 1892, Houston, TX 77251, USA.
2
MarineGeology, Earth Sciences Center, Box 460, SE-40530Go¨teborg, Sweden.*To whom correspondence should be addressed. E-mail: birger@gvc.gu.se
Fig. 1.
Map of southern Sweden with sites studied.
R
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www.sciencemag.org SCIENCE VOL 300 9 MAY 2003
961
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meteorites have been found. At the Ha
¨
llekislocality, 4 km northwest of the Thorsbergquarry, an essentially continuous sequence of Arenigian
 – 
lower Llanvirnian OrthoceratiteLimestone is exposed. Here it is possible tosample also the beds underlying the quarried interval at the Thorsberg quarry. At Ha
¨
llekis,we studied five samples in the interval fromca. 2 to 9 m below the base of the Arkeologen bed and two samples from the Arkeologen bed. The samples from the interval below theArkeologen bed represent the
Megistaspis si-mon
and 
M. limbata
trilobite zones (
12
).From the two southernmost sites, Gullho
¨
genand Degerhamn, we studied only samples of the Arkeologen bed. This bed can be readilytraced between the four southern sites on the basis of lithologic correlation. A similar se-quence of beds and color changes occur atthese sites, with trilobite (
 Asaphus expansus
 – 
 A. raniceps
) and conodont (
 L. antivariabilis
 – 
L. variabilis
) zone boundaries occuring in aconsistent pattern relative to specific beds(
11–16 
). For the northern Ra
¨
vana
¨
s section,the lithologic correlation approach cannot beapplied, and instead conodont and trilobitezonations have been used for correlation (
13
,
14
,
17 
). On the basis of conodont zonation,the sample from 4.35 m above the base of theRa
¨
vana
¨
s section (
 L. variabilis
and 
Y. crassus
zones) is coeval to the quarried interval at theThorsberg quarry, whereas the sample at2.60 m (
 L. antivariabilis
zone) correlates tothe interval just below the Arkeologen bed atthe southern sections.The limestone samples were crushed toca. 0.5-cm fragments and then dissolved inHCl (6 M) and HF (18 M) at room tempera-ture. The acid-insoluble fraction in the sizerange from 63 to 355
m was searched for chromite grains, which were analyzed for element composition (
18
). Grains with achemical composition similar to that of chro-mite grains previously recovered from fossilmeteorites from the Thorsberg quarry wereconsidered to be of extraterrestrial origin.The results from the Thorsberg quarryshow that the concentration of extraterrestrial(ordinary chondritic) chromite (EC) grains ishighest in the Arkeologen bed, yielding 33EC grains per 10 kg of rock (Table 1). Themeteorite-carrying beds higher up in the sec-tion give between 10 to 19 EC grains per 10kg of rock. The Arkeologen bed is about asrich in EC grains at Ha
¨
llekis as in the Thors- berg quarry. The five samples from below theArkeologen bed at Ha
¨
llekis did not yield anyEC grains, although in total as much as 150kg of rock was searched. The Arkeologen bed at the two localities 35 and 300 km southeastof Kinnekulle is rich in EC grains, typicallyabout 20 grains per 10 kg of limestone. Theupper sample from the Ra
¨
vana
¨
s section isabout as rich in EC grains as the coevalmeteorite-rich interval quarried in the Thors- berg quarry. The sample (45 kg) from Ra
¨
-vana
¨
s correlating to the interval just belowthe Arkeologen bed at Kinnekulle did notyield any EC grains.The average compositions of the ECgrains at the four southern sites are similar tothe average composition of 333 chromitegrains from 26 fossil meteorites from theThorsberg quarry (Table 2). This shows thatthe sediment-dispersed chromite grains de-rive mainly or entirely from the same type of chondritic (L or LL) meteorites that have been found as fossils. The chromite grainsfrom the northern Ra
¨
vana
¨
s section are, onaverage, a few percent lower in Cr 
2
O
3
and afew percent higher in FeO than the grainsfrom the other sites, but for the rest thecomposition is the same. The Ra
¨
vana
¨
s sec-tion lies at the rim of the large Siljan impactcrater, and chromite chemistry may have been affected by the crater formation at ca.368 Ma (
19
).The chromite data indicate that the en-hanced meteorite flux inferred from the abun-dant fossil meteorites in the Thorsberg quarry began at or shortly before the deposition of the Arkeologen bed. A major (order-of-mag-nitude) change in sedimentation rate cannotexplain the sudden appearance of abundantEC grains in the Arkeologen bed. The lime-stone with no EC grains in the interval 2 to9 m below the Arkeologen bed at Ha
¨
llekisrepresents the same type of condensed,hardground-rich limestone as the meteorite-yielding beds.
Fig. 2.
Quarried beds in the Thorsberg quarryand distribution of meteorites found until De-cember 2000. Only half of the section was usedfor production of limestone plates; the rest wascrushed and not searched for meteorites. Con-odont zonation is on the basis of studies of nearby Ha¨llekis section (
11
).
Table 1.
Extraterrestrial chromite grains in Orthoceratite Limestone. Depths are relative to base of Arkeologen bed except for Ra¨vana¨s, where depths are relative to the base of the section.Bed Sample size (kg) No. of EC grains EC grains/kg
Thorsberg quarry, Kinnekulle
Sextummen 42.3 67 1.6Botten 24.6 24 1.0Golvsten 31.0 59 1.9Arkeologen
ϩ
0.32 to
ϩ
0.56 m 24.0 41 1.7Arkeologen
ϩ
0.08 to
ϩ
0.32 m 26.0 87 3.3
Ha¨llekis, Kinnekulle
Arkeologen
ϩ
0.14 to
ϩ
0.31 m 7.3 22 3.0Arkeologen 0.00 to
ϩ
0.14 m 18.7 34 1.82.35 to 2.60 m 31.7 0 02.60 to 2.85 m 30.2 0 03.45 to 3.95 m 31.3 0 05.00 to 5.25 m 30.5 0 09.05 to 9.15 m 26.4 0 0
Gullho¨gen, Billingen
Arkeologen
ϩ
0.21 to
ϩ
0.49 m 25.7 54 2.1Arkeologen 0.00 to
ϩ
0.21 m 17.0 28 1.6
Degerhamn, O¨land 
Arkeologen
ϩ
0.15 to
ϩ
0.33 m 33.5 63 1.9Arkeologen 0.00 to
ϩ
0.15 m 17.8 11 0.6
Ra¨vana¨s, Dalarna
ϩ
4.35 to
ϩ
4.50 m 26.0 48 1.8
ϩ
2.60 to
ϩ
2.80 m 45.0 0 0
R
E P O R T S
9 MAY 2003 VOL 300 SCIENCE www.sciencemag.org
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