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Extraformational sediment recycling on Mars

Edgett, Kenneth S. and Banham, Steven G. and Bennett, Kristen A. and Edgar, Lauren A. and Edwards, Christopher S. and Fairén, Alberto G. and Fedo, Christopher M. and Fey, Deirdra M. and Garvin, James B. and Grotzinger, John P. and Gupta, Sanjeev and Henderson, Marie J. and House, Christopher H. and Mangold, Nicolas and McLennan, Scott M. and Newsom, Horton E. and Rowland, Scott K. and Siebach, Kirsten L. and Thompson, Lucy and VanBommel, Scott J. and Wiens, Roger C. and Williams, Rebecca M. E. and Yingst, R. Aileen (2020) Extraformational sediment recycling on Mars. Geosphere, 16 (6). pp. 1508-1537. ISSN 1553-040X. PMCID PMC7116455. doi:10.1130/ges02244.1.

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Extraformational sediment recycling (old sedimentary rock to new sedimentary rock) is a fundamental aspect of Earth’s geological record; tectonism exposes sedimentary rock, whereupon it is weathered and eroded to form new sediment that later becomes lithified. On Mars, tectonism has been minor, but two decades of orbiter instrument–based studies show that some sedimentary rocks previously buried to depths of kilometers have been exposed, by erosion, at the surface. Four locations in Gale crater, explored using the National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s Curiosity rover, exhibit sedimentary lithoclasts in sedimentary rock: At Marias Pass, they are mudstone fragments in sandstone derived from strata below an erosional unconformity; at Bimbe, they are pebble-sized sandstone and, possibly, laminated, intraclast-bearing, chemical (calcium sulfate) sediment fragments in conglomerates; at Cooperstown, they are pebble-sized fragments of sandstone within coarse sandstone; at Dingo Gap, they are cobble-sized, stratified sandstone fragments in conglomerate derived from an immediately underlying sandstone. Mars orbiter images show lithified sediment fans at the termini of canyons that incise sedimentary rock in Gale crater; these, too, consist of recycled, extraformational sediment. The recycled sediments in Gale crater are compositionally immature, indicating the dominance of physical weathering processes during the second known cycle. The observations at Marias Pass indicate that sediment eroded and removed from craters such as Gale crater during the Martian Hesperian Period could have been recycled to form new rock elsewhere. Our results permit prediction that lithified deltaic sediments at the Perseverance (landing in 2021) and Rosalind Franklin (landing in 2023) rover field sites could contain extraformational recycled sediment.

Item Type:Article
Related URLs:
URLURL TypeDescription CentralArticle
Edgett, Kenneth S.0000-0001-7197-5751
Banham, Steven G.0000-0003-1206-1639
Bennett, Kristen A.0000-0001-8105-7129
Edgar, Lauren A.0000-0001-7512-7813
Fairén, Alberto G.0000-0002-2938-6010
Fedo, Christopher M.0000-0002-2626-1132
Fey, Deirdra M.0000-0003-0756-7969
Garvin, James B.0000-0003-1606-5645
Grotzinger, John P.0000-0001-9324-1257
House, Christopher H.0000-0002-4926-4985
Mangold, Nicolas0000-0002-0022-0631
McLennan, Scott M.0000-0003-4259-7178
Newsom, Horton E.0000-0002-4358-8161
Rowland, Scott K.0000-0003-3943-1492
Siebach, Kirsten L.0000-0002-6628-6297
Thompson, Lucy0000-0002-5444-952X
VanBommel, Scott J.0000-0002-6565-0827
Wiens, Roger C.0000-0002-3409-7344
Williams, Rebecca M. E.0000-0003-1571-6952
Yingst, R. Aileen0000-0002-0628-4265
Additional Information:© 2020 The Authors. Gold Open Access: This paper is published under the terms of the CC-BY-NC license. Received 8 February 2020; Revision received 21 July 2020; Accepted 25 August 2020. We thank Gwénaël Caravaca (Mars Science Laboratory [MSL] Science Team), Colin Dundas (U.S. Geological Survey internal reviewer), two peer reviewers (Tim Goudge and anonymous), the Associate Editor (Lesli Wood), and the Editor (Shanaka de Silva) for comments and suggestions that helped us to improve our manuscript. We thank The Planetary Society for sharing with the public two years’ worth of images from India’s Mars Color Camera. This research was supported by NASA through the MSL Project managed by the Jet Propulsion Laboratory of the California Institute of Technology. Fairén was supported by the Project “MarsFirstWater,” European Research Council Consolidator Grant 818602. MSL is a monumental undertaking that involved thousands of individuals spanning nearly two decades and dozens of nations from mission conception to the present. Everyone connected to this project is heartily thanked for their contributions. In addition, Mars-orbiting spacecraft and their science and engineering operations teams, along with NASA’s Deep Space Network, were vital for relaying data from Curiosity to Earth and in supporting surface operations through data acquisitions of landforms and minerals in Gale crater and its regional context; we thank them for their strong and sustained efforts. During the August 2012–January 2020 study period, the following orbiters and their operations personnel performed data relays from Curiosity: Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, Mars Odyssey, Mars Express, Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution (MAVEN), and the ExoMars Trace Gas Orbiter.
Funding AgencyGrant Number
European Research Council (ERC)818602
Issue or Number:6
PubMed Central ID:PMC7116455
Record Number:CaltechAUTHORS:20201013-072835172
Persistent URL:
Official Citation:Kenneth S. Edgett, Steven G. Banham, Kristen A. Bennett, Lauren A. Edgar, Christopher S. Edwards, Alberto G. Fairén, Christopher M. Fedo, Deirdra M. Fey, James B. Garvin, John P. Grotzinger, Sanjeev Gupta, Marie J. Henderson, Christopher H. House, Nicolas Mangold, Scott M. McLennan, Horton E. Newsom, Scott K. Rowland, Kirsten L. Siebach, Lucy Thompson, Scott J. VanBommel, Roger C. Wiens, Rebecca M.E. Williams, R. Aileen Yingst; Extraformational sediment recycling on Mars. Geosphere ; 16 (6): 1508–1537. doi:
Usage Policy:No commercial reproduction, distribution, display or performance rights in this work are provided.
ID Code:106012
Deposited By: Tony Diaz
Deposited On:13 Oct 2020 16:01
Last Modified:16 Nov 2021 18:49

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