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The Chesapeake Bay impact structure, formed by a comet or meteorite that struck the Virginia continental shelf about 35.5 million years ago, is the focus of an extensive coring project by the U.S. Geological Survey and its cooperators. Organic-walled dinocysts recovered from impact-generated deposits in a deep core inside the 85-90 km-wide crater include welded organic clumps and fused, partially melted and bubbled dinocysts unlike any previously observed. Other observed damage to dinocysts consists of breakage, pitting, and folding in various combinations. The entire marine Cretaceous, Paleocene, and Eocene section that was once present at the site has been excavated and redeposited under extreme conditions that include shock, heat, collapse, tsunamis, and airfall. The preserved dinocysts reflect these conditions and, as products of a known impact, may serve as guides for recognizing impact-related deposits elsewhere. Features that are not unique to impacts, such as breakage and folding, may offer new insights into crater-history studies in general, and to the history of the Chesapeake Bay impact structure in particular. Impact-damaged dinocysts also are found sporadically in post-impact deposits and add to the story of continuing erosion and faulting of crater material.
Additional Publication Details
Impact damage to dinocysts from the Late Eocene Chesapeake Bay event