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Abstract

To understand Martian palaeoclimatic conditions and the role of volatiles therein, the spatiotemporal evolution of gullies must be deciphered. While the spatial distribution of gullies has been extensively studied, their temporal evolution is poorly understood. We show that gully size is similar in very young and old craters. Gullies on the walls of very young impact craters (less than a few myr) typically cut into bedrock and are free of latitude-dependent mantle (LDM) and glacial deposits, while such deposits become increasingly evident in older craters. These observations suggest that gullies go through obliquity-driven degradation–accumulation cycles over time, controlled by: (1) LDM emplacement and degradation; and (2) glacial emplacement and removal. In glacially-influenced craters, the distribution of gullies on crater walls coincides with the extent of glacial deposits, which suggests that the melting of snow and ice played a role in the formation of these gullies. Yet, present-day activity is observed in some gullies on formerly glaciated crater walls. Moreover, in very young craters, extensive gullies have formed in the absence of LDM and glacial deposits, showing that gully formation can also be unrelated to these deposits. The Martian climate varied substantially over time, and the gully-forming mechanisms are likely to have varied accordingly.

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