Iridium profile for 10 million years across the Cretaceous-Tertiary boundary at Gubbio (Italy)

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Science  21 Dec 1990:
Vol. 250, Issue 4988, pp. 1700-1702
DOI: 10.1126/science.11538083


The iridium anomaly at the Cretaceous-Tertiary (KT) boundary was discovered in the pelagic limestone sequence at Gubbio on the basis of 12 samples analyzed by neutron activation analysis (NAA) and was interpreted as indicating impact of a large extraterrestrial object at exactly the time of the KT mass extinction. Continuing controversy over the shape of the Ir profile at the Gubbio KT boundary and its interpretation called for a more detailed follow-up study. Analysis of a 57-meter-thick, 10-million-year-old part of the Gubbio sequence using improved NAA techniques revealed that there is only one Ir anomaly at the KT boundary, but this anomaly shows an intricate fine structure, the origin of which cannot yet be entirely explained. The KT Ir anomaly peaks in a 1-centimeter-thick clay layer, where average Ir concentration is 3000 parts per trillion (ppt); this peak is flanked by tails with Ir concentrations of 20 to 80 ppt that rise above a background of 12 to 13 ppt. The fine structure of the tails is probably due in part to lateral reworking, diffusion, burrowing, and perhaps Milankovitch cyclicity.

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