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The Habitat of the Nascent Chicxulub Crater

Bralower, T. J. and Cosmidis, J. and Fantle, M. S. and Lowery, C. M. and Passey, B. H. and Gulick, S. P. S. and Morgan, J. V. and Vajda, V. and Whalen, M. T. and Wittmann, A. and Artemieva, N. and Farley, K. and Goderis, S. and Hajek, E. and Heaney, P. J. and Kring, D. A. and Lyons, S. L. and Rasmussen, C. and Sibert, E. and Rodríguez Tovar, F. J. and Turner‐Walker, G. and Zachos, J. C. and Carte, J. and Chen, S. A. and Cockell, C. and Coolen, M. and Freeman, K. H. and Garber, J. and Gonzalez, M. and Gray, J. L. and Grice, K. and Jones, H. L. and Schaefer, B. and Smit, J. and Tikoo, S. M. (2020) The Habitat of the Nascent Chicxulub Crater. AGU Advances, 1 (4). Art. No. e2020AV000208. ISSN 2576-604X. doi:10.1029/2020av000208.

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An expanded sedimentary section provides an opportunity to elucidate conditions in the nascent Chicxulub crater during the hours to millennia after the Cretaceous‐Paleogene (K‐Pg) boundary impact. The sediments were deposited by tsunami followed by seiche waves as energy in the crater declined, culminating in a thin hemipelagic marlstone unit that contains atmospheric fallout. Seiche deposits are predominantly composed of calcite formed by decarbonation of the target limestone during impact followed by carbonation in the water column. Temperatures recorded by clumped isotopes of these carbonates are in excess of 70°C, with heat likely derived from the central impact melt pool. Yet, despite the turbidity and heat, waters within the nascent crater basin soon became a viable habitat for a remarkably diverse cross section of the food chain. The earliest seiche layers deposited with days or weeks of the impact contain earliest Danian nannoplankton and dinocyst survivors. The hemipelagic marlstone representing the subsequent years to a few millennia contains a nearly monogeneric calcareous dinoflagellate resting cyst assemblage suggesting deteriorating environmental conditions, with one interpretation involving low light levels in the impact aftermath. At the same horizon, microbial fossils indicate a thriving bacterial community and unique phosphatic fossils including appendages of pelagic crustaceans, coprolites and bacteria‐tunneled fish bone, suggesting that this rapid recovery of the base of the food chain may have supported the survival of larger, higher trophic‐level organisms. The extraordinarily diverse fossil assemblage indicates that the crater was a unique habitat in the immediate impact aftermath, possibly as a result of heat and nutrients supplied by hydrothermal activity.

Item Type:Article
Related URLs:
URLURL TypeDescription
https://www.pangaea.deRelated ItemPANGAEA database
Bralower, T. J.0000-0002-3503-859X
Cosmidis, J.0000-0003-3428-8447
Lowery, C. M.0000-0002-0101-4397
Gulick, S. P. S.0000-0003-4740-9068
Morgan, J. V.0000-0002-3832-2959
Wittmann, A.0000-0001-7572-0801
Artemieva, N.0000-0003-1347-016X
Farley, K.0000-0002-7846-7546
Goderis, S.0000-0002-6666-7153
Hajek, E.0000-0001-9913-6298
Kring, D. A.0000-0002-3440-6282
Lyons, S. L.0000-0003-4656-3434
Rasmussen, C.0000-0001-9979-8224
Sibert, E.0000-0003-0577-864X
Zachos, J. C.0000-0001-8439-1886
Coolen, M.0000-0002-0417-920X
Freeman, K. H.0000-0002-3350-7671
Smit, J.0000-0002-6070-4865
Tikoo, S. M.0000-0001-9524-8284
Additional Information:© 2020 The Authors. This is an open access article under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits use, distribution and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited. Issue Online: 24 November 2020; Version of Record online: 24 November 2020; Manuscript accepted: 28 July 2020; Manuscript revised: 16 July 2020; Manuscript received: 23 April 2020. Expedition 364 was jointly funded by the European Consortium for Ocean Research Drilling (ECORD) and ICDP, with contributions and logistical support from the Yucatán State Government and Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México (UNAM). Research was funded by NSF‐OCE OCE 1736951 (to T. B. and K. H. F.), 1737351, 1737087, OCE 1736826, OCE 1737087, OCE 1737037, and OCE 1737199, and Post Expedition Awards from IODP to T. B., NERC grant NE/P005217/1 to J. V. M., and by the Swedish Research Council (VR) grant 2015‐4264 to V. V. S. G. acknowledges the support by the Belgian Science Policy (BELSPO) and Research Foundation‐Flanders (FWO‐Vlaanderen). We thank the Expedition 364 captain and crew, drilling team, and technical staff who participated in shipboard and shore based activities, and the entire science party for their support. We acknowledge helpful discussions with Cristiano Colletini, Maureen Feineman, Lee Kump, Ron Shahar, and Andy Smye. We thank Holger Kuhlmann, Chad Broyles, and Phil Rumford for help with sampling; Julie Anderson and Wes Auker for assistance with the SEM; and Kat Crispin, Mark Fairchilds, and Tom Henderson with help with microscopy. We thank Drake Yarian, Elise Pelletier, Natalie Packard, Sarah Katz, Emily Beverly, Dana Brenner, and Ian Winkelstern for assistance with the clumped isotope and triple oxygen isotope analyses. We are very grateful to Mark Leckie and two anonymous reviewers for extremely helpful suggestions on an earlier version of the manuscript. This is UTIG Contribution #3590 and Center for Planetary Systems Habitability Contribution #0018. The authors declare no conflicts of interest relevant to this study. Data Availability Statement: The data that support the findings of this study are available in the PANGAEA database ( This research used samples and data provided by IODP.
Funding AgencyGrant Number
European Consortium for Ocean Research DrillingUNSPECIFIED
International Continental Scientific Drilling ProgramUNSPECIFIED
Yucatán State GovernmentUNSPECIFIED
Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México (UNAM)UNSPECIFIED
Integrated Ocean Drilling ProgramUNSPECIFIED
Natural Environment Research Council (NERC)NE/P005217/1
Swedish Research Council2015‐4264
Belgian Federal Science Policy Office (BELSPO)UNSPECIFIED
Fonds Wetenschappelijk Onderzoek (FWO)UNSPECIFIED
Subject Keywords:K‐Pg boundary; Chicxulub; crater
Issue or Number:4
Record Number:CaltechAUTHORS:20201125-070002260
Persistent URL:
Official Citation:Bralower, T. J., Cosmidis, J., Fantle, M. S., Lowery, C. M., Passey, B. H., Gulick, S. P. S., et al. (2020). The habitat of the nascent Chicxulub crater. AGU Advances, 2, e2020AV000208.
Usage Policy:No commercial reproduction, distribution, display or performance rights in this work are provided.
ID Code:106822
Deposited By: Tony Diaz
Deposited On:25 Nov 2020 16:43
Last Modified:16 Nov 2021 18:57

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