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Reconstructing the transport history of pebbles on Mars

Szabó, Tímea and Domokos, Gábor and Grotzinger, John P. and Jerolmack, Douglas J. (2015) Reconstructing the transport history of pebbles on Mars. Nature Communications, 6 (10). Art. No. 8366. ISSN 2041-1723. PMCID PMC4692308.

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The discovery of remarkably rounded pebbles by the rover Curiosity, within an exhumed alluvial fan complex in Gale Crater, presents some of the most compelling evidence yet for sustained fluvial activity on Mars. While rounding is known to result from abrasion by inter-particle collisions, geologic interpretations of sediment shape have been qualitative. Here we show how quantitative information on the transport distance of river pebbles can be extracted from their shape alone, using a combination of theory, laboratory experiments and terrestrial field data. We determine that the Martian basalt pebbles have been carried tens of kilometres from their source, by bed-load transport on an alluvial fan. In contrast, angular clasts strewn about the surface of the Curiosity traverse are indicative of later emplacement by rock fragmentation processes. The proposed method for decoding transport history from particle shape provides a new tool for terrestrial and planetary sedimentology.

Item Type:Article
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URLURL TypeDescription CentralArticle
Grotzinger, John P.0000-0001-9324-1257
Additional Information:© 2015 Macmillan Publishers Limited. This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License. The images or other third party material in this article are included in the article’s Creative Commons license, unless indicated otherwise in the credit line; if the material is not included under the Creative Commons license, users will need to obtain permission from the license holder to reproduce the material. To view a copy of this license, visit Received 22 May 2015; Accepted 14 Aug 2015; Published 13 Oct 2015. We thank Rebecca Williams and Nicolas Mangold for their help in locating the Mars conglomerates and their guidance in Curiosity’s raw data; Kim Miller for providing data from Dog Canyon; and Sarolta Bodor for help in the drum experiment. Research was supported by the US National Science Foundation Luquillo Critical Zone Observatory (EAR-1331841) to D.J.J. a Korányi Fellowship to T.S.Z. Hungarian OTKA grant 104601 to G.D. and T.Z. and the NASA Astrobiology Institute and Mars Science Laboratory Mission to J.P.G. Author contributions: T.S.Z. performed all of the data analysis; G.D. led the laboratory experiment; J.P.G. developed the Martian geology; and D.J.J. supervised the research. All authors contributed to writing of the document and interpreting the results.
Funding AgencyGrant Number
Korányi FellowshipUNSPECIFIED
Hungarian Scientific Research Fund (OTKA)104601
Subject Keywords:Earth sciences; Planetary sciences; Geology and geophysics
Issue or Number:10
PubMed Central ID:PMC4692308
Record Number:CaltechAUTHORS:20151019-103752621
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Official Citation:Szabó, T. et al. Reconstructing the transport history of pebbles on Mars. Nat. Commun. 6:8366 doi: 10.1038/ncomms9366 (2015)
Usage Policy:No commercial reproduction, distribution, display or performance rights in this work are provided.
ID Code:61253
Deposited By: Tony Diaz
Deposited On:19 Oct 2015 17:53
Last Modified:03 Oct 2019 09:05

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