The transition from synimpact to postimpact sedimentation inside Chesapeake Bay impact crater began with accumulation of fallout debris, the final synimpact deposit. Evidence of a synimpact fallout layer at this site comes from the presence of unusual, millimeter-scale, pyrite microstructures at the top of the Exmore crater-fill breccia. The porous geometry of the pyrite microstructures indicates that they originally were part of a more extensive pyrite lattice that encompassed a layer of millimeter-scale glass microspherules-fallout melt particles produced by the bolide impact. Above this microspherule layer is the initial postimpact deposit, a laminated clay-silt-sand unit, 19 cm thick. This laminated unit is a dead zone, which contains abundant stratigraphically mixed and diagenetically altered or impact-altered microfossils (foraminifera, calcareous nannofossils, dinoflagellates, ostracodes), but no evidence of indigenous biota. By extrapolation of sediment-accumulation rates, I estimate that conditions unfavorable to microbiota persisted for as little as <1 k.y. to 10 k.y. after the bolide impact. Subsequently, an abrupt improvement of the late Eocene paleoenvironment allowed species-rich assemblages of foraminifera, ostracodes, dinoflagellates, radiolarians, and calcareous nannoplankton to quickly reoccupy the crater basin, as documented in the first sample of the Chickahominy Formation above the dead zone.
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Synimpact-postimpact transition inside Chesapeake Bay crater