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Preserved flora and organics in impact melt breccias

Peter H. Schultz, R. Scott Harris, S. J. Clemett, K. L. Thomas-Keprta and M. Zarate
Preserved flora and organics in impact melt breccias
Geology (Boulder) (June 2014) 42 (6): 515-518


Impact cratering can destroy life from local to global scales and result in sudden turnovers of dominant genera and/or species. Here we report that it can also preserve components of the local biology present at the time of impact. We have investigated floral matter encapsulated within Cenozoic Era impact glasses produced by separate bolide impacts into the loessoid sediments of Argentina that occurred between 9.2 Ma (Miocene) and 6 ka (Holocene). The encapsulation preserved not only macro-scale morphological biosignatures such as vascular bundles, veins, phytoliths, and papillae, but also structures down to the cellular level. In the best-preserved samples we also found evidence for organic matter. While fossilization typically occurs over an extended time period as minerals slowly replace organic matter and the host rock lithifies under pressure, the process documented here is instantaneous. Preservation of morphological and chemical biosignatures in impact events can provide snapshots of the ecology in environments that do not otherwise promote a diverse fossil record. We suggest that this would provide a new strategy for identifying signs of possible early life on ancient Mars, where similar target conditions once existed.

ISSN: 0091-7613
EISSN: 1943-2682
Serial Title: Geology (Boulder)
Serial Volume: 42
Serial Issue: 6
Title: Preserved flora and organics in impact melt breccias
Affiliation: Brown University, Department of Geological Sciences, Providence, RI, United States
Pages: 515-518
Published: 201406
Text Language: English
Publisher: Geological Society of America (GSA), Boulder, CO, United States
References: 24
Accession Number: 2014-060334
Categories: StratigraphyExtraterrestrial geology
Document Type: Serial
Bibliographic Level: Analytic
Annotation: GSA Data Repository item 2014183
Illustration Description: illus.
S55°00'00" - S22°00'00", W73°00'00" - W53°30'00"
Secondary Affiliation: Georgia Department of Transportation, USA, United StatesJacobs Technology, USA, United StatesCONICET/Universidad Nacional de la Pampa, ARG, Argentina
Country of Publication: United States
Secondary Affiliation: GeoRef, Copyright 2017, American Geosciences Institute. Reference includes data from GeoScienceWorld, Alexandria, VA, United States. Reference includes data supplied by the Geological Society of America, Boulder, CO, United States
Update Code: 201432
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