Paleoenvironmental recovery from the Chesapeake Bay bolide impact: The benthic foraminiferal record

Special Paper of the Geological Society of America




The late Eocene Chesapeake Bay bolide impact transformed its offshore target site from an outer neritic, midshelf seafl oor into a bathyal crater basin. To obtain a depositional record from one of the deepest parts of this basin, the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) and the International Continental Scientifi c Drilling Program (ICDP) drilled a 1.76-km-deep core hole near Eyreville, Virginia. The Eyreville core and eight previously cored boreholes contain a rarely obtainable record of marine deposition and microfossil assemblages that characterize the transition from synimpact to postimpact paleoenvironments inside and near a submarine impact crater. I used depositional style and benthic foraminiferal assemblages to recognize a four-step transitional succession, with emphasis on the Eyreville core. Step 1 is represented by small-scale, silt-rich turbidites, devoid of indigenous microfossils, which lie directly above the crater-fi lling Exmore breccia. Step 2 is represented by very thin, parallel, silt and clay laminae, which accumulated on a relatively tranquil and stagnant seafl oor. This stagnation created a dead zone, which excluded seafl oor biota, and it lasted ~3-5 ka. Step 3 is an interval of marine clay deposition, accompanied by a burst of microfaunal activity, as a species-rich pioneer community of benthic foraminifera repopulated the impact site. The presence of a diagnostic suite of agglutinated foraminifera during step 3 indicates that paleoenvironmental stress related to the impact lasted from ~9 ka to 400 ka at different locations inside the crater. During step 4, the agglutinated assemblage disappeared, and an equilibrium foraminiferal community developed that contained nearly 100% calcareous species. In contrast to intracrater localities, core sites outside and near the crater rim show neither evidence of the agglutinated assemblage, nor other indications of long-term biotic disruption from the bolide impact. 

Additional publication details

Publication type:
Publication Subtype:
Journal Article
Paleoenvironmental recovery from the Chesapeake Bay bolide impact: The benthic foraminiferal record
Series title:
Special Paper of the Geological Society of America
Year Published:
Geological Society of America
Contributing office(s):
Woods Hole Coastal and Marine Science Center
27 p.
First page:
Last page:
United States
Other Geospatial:
Chesapeake Bay