Osmium-187/Osmium-186 in Manganese Nodules and the Cretaceous-Tertiary Boundary

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Science  11 Nov 1983:
Vol. 222, Issue 4624, pp. 613-615
DOI: 10.1126/science.222.4624.613


As a result of the radioactive decay of rhenium-187 (4.6 x 1010 years) the osmium-187/osmium-186 ratio changes in planetary systems as a function of time and the rhenium-187/osmium-186 ratio. For a value of the rhenium-187/osmium-186 ratio of about 3.2, typical of meteorites and the earth's mantle, the present-day osmium-187/osmium-186 ratio is about 1. The earth's continental crust has an estimated rhenium-187/osmium-186 ratio of about 400, so that for a mean age of the continent of 2 x 109 years, a present-day osmium-187/osmium-186 ratio of about 10 is expected. Marine manganese nodules show values (6 to 8.4) compatible with this expectation if allowance for a 25 percent mantle osmium supply to the oceans is allowed. The Cretaceous-Tertiary boundary iridium-rich layer in the marine section at Stevns Klint, Denmark, yields an osmium-187/osmium-186 ratio of 1.65, and the one in a continental section in the Raton Basin, Colorado, is 1.29. The simplest explanation is that these represent osmium imprints of predominantly meteoritic origin.