Iridium Abundances Across the Ordovician-Silurian Stratotype

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Science  18 Jul 1986:
Vol. 233, Issue 4761, pp. 339-341
DOI: 10.1126/science.233.4761.339


Chemostratigraphic analyses in the Ordovician-Silurian boundary stratotype section, bracketing a major extinction event in the graptolitic shale section at Dob's Linn, Scotland, show persistently high iridium concentrations of 0.050 to 0.250 parts per billion. There is no iridiumn concentration spike in the boundary interval or elsewhere in the 13 graptolite zones examined encompassing about 20 million years. Iridium correlated with chromium, both elements showing a gradual decrease with time into the middle part of the Lower Silurian. The chromium-iridium ratio averages about 106. Paleogeographic and geologic reconstructions coupled with the occurrence of ophiolites and other deep crustal rocks in the source area suggest that the high iridium and chromium concentrations observed in the shales result from terrestrial erosion of exposed upper mantle ultramafic rocks rather than from a cataclysmic extraterrestrial event.