THE 200-km-diameter Chicxulub structure1-3 in northern Yucatan, Mexico has emerged as the prime candidate for the Cretaceous/Tertiary (K/T) boundary impact crater3-6. Concentric geophysical anomalies associated with enigmatic occurrences of Upper Cretaceous breccias and andesitic rocks led Penfield and Camargo1 to suspect that this structure was a buried impact basin. More recently, the discovery of shocked quartz grains in a Chicxulub breccia3, and chemical similarities between Chicxulub rocks and K/T tektite-like glasses3-6 have been advanced as evidence that the Chicxulub structure is a K/T impact site. Here we present evidence from core samples that Chicxulub is indeed a K/T source crater, and can apparently account for all the evidence of impact distributed globally at the K/T boundary without the need for simultaneous multiple impacts or comet showers. Shocked breccia clasts found in the cores are similar to shocked lithic fragments found worldwide in the K/T boundary ejecta layer7,8. The Chicxulub melt rocks that we studied contain anomalously high levels of iridium (up to 13.5 parts per 109), also consistent with the indium-enriched K/T boundary layer9. Our best estimate of the crystallization age of these melt rocks, as determined by 40Ar/39Ar analyses, is 65.2??0.4 (1??) Myr, in good agreement with the mean plateau age of 64.98 ?? 0.05 Myr recently reported10. Furthermore, these melt rocks acquired a remanent magnetization indicating that they cooled during an episode of reversed geomagnetic polarity. The only such episode consistent with 40Ar/39Ar constraints is chron 29R, which includes the K/T boundary.
Additional Publication Details
New links between the Chicxulub impact structure and the Cretaceous/Tertiary boundary