The Precursor of the Cretaceous-Tertiary Boundary Clays at Stevns Klint, Denmark, and DSDP Hole 465A

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Science  12 Oct 1984:
Vol. 226, Issue 4671, pp. 137-143
DOI: 10.1126/science.226.4671.137


Results of detailed mineralogical, chemical, and oxygen isotope analyses of the clay minerals and zeolites from two Cretaceous-Tertiary (K/T) boundary regions, Stevns Klint, Denmark, and Deep Sea Drilling Project (DSDP) Hole 465A in the north central Pacific Ocean, are presented. In the central part of the Stevns Klint K/T boundary layer, the only clay mineral detected by x-ray diffraction is a pure smectite with > 95 percent expandable layers. No detrital clay minerals or quartz were observed in the clay size fraction in these beds, whereas the clay minerals above and below the boundary layer are illite and mixed-layer smectite-illite of detrital origin as well as quartz. The mineralogical purity of the clay fraction, the presence of smectite only at the boundary, and the δ18O value of the smectite (27.2 ± 0.2 per mil) suggest that it formed in situ by alteration of glass. Formation from impact rather than from volcanic glass is supported by its major element chemistry. The high content of iridium and other siderophile elements is not due to the cessation of calcium carbonate deposition and resulting slow sedimentation rates. At DSDP Hole 465A, the principal clay mineral in the boundary zone (80 to 143 centimeters) is a mixed-layer smectite-illite with ≥90 percent expandable layers, accompanied by some detrital quartz and small amounts of a euhedral authigenic zeolite (clinoptilolite). The mixed-layer smectite-illite from the interval 118 to 120 centimeters in the zone of high iridium abundance has a very low rare earth element content; the negative cerium anomaly indicates formation in the marine environment. This conclusion is corroborated by the δ18O value of this clay mineral (27.1 ± 0.2 per mil). Thus, this mixed-layer smectite-illite formed possibly from the same glass as the K/T boundary smectite at Stevns Klint, Denmark.