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ABSTRACT

We reconstructed a record of the micrometeorite flux in the Late Cretaceous using the distribution of extraterrestrial spinel grains across an ~2 m.y. interval of elevated 3He in the Turonian Stage (ca. 92–90 Ma). From ~30 m of the limestone succession in the Bottaccione section, Italy, a total of 979 kg of rock from levels below and within the 3He excursion yielded 603 spinel grains (32–355 µm size). Of those, 115 represent equilibrated ordinary chondritic chromite (EC). Within the 3He excursion, there is no change in the number of EC grains per kilogram of sediment, but H-chondritic grains dominate over L and LL grains (70%, 27%, and 3%), contrary to the interval before the excursion, where the relation between the three groups (50%, 44%, and 6%) is similar to today and to the Early Cretaceous. Intriguingly, within the 3He anomaly, there is also a factor-of-five increase of vanadium-rich chrome spinels likely originating from achondritic and unequilibrated ordinary chondritic meteorites. The 3He anomaly has an unusually spiky and temporal progression not readily explained by present models for delivery of extraterrestrial dust to Earth. Previous suggestions of a relation to a comet or asteroid shower possibly associated with dust-producing lunar impacts are not supported by our data. Instead, the spinel data preliminary indicate a more general disturbance of the asteroid belt, where different parent bodies or source regions of micrometeorites were affected at the same time. More spinel grains need to be recovered and more oxygen isotopic analyses of grains are required to resolve the origin of the 3He anomaly.

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