Multiple spherule layers in the late Maastrichtian of northeastern Mexico

Gerta Keller, Thierry Adatte, Wolfgang Stinnesbeck, Mark Affolter, Lionel Schilli, Jose Guadalupe Lopez-Oliva

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45 Scopus citations


The discovery of as many as 4 spherule layers within 10 m of pelagic marls below the sandstone-siltstone complex and Cretaceous-Tertiary (K-T) boundary in the La Sierrita area of northeastern Mexico reveals a more complex K-T scenario than previously imagined. These spherule layers were deposited within pelagic marls of the Mendez Formation; the oldest layer is as much as 10 m below the K-T boundary. The marls are of latest Maastrichtian calcareous nannofossil Micula prinsii zone and planktic foraminiferal zone CF1 (Plummerita hantkeninoides) age; the latter spans the last 300 k.y. of the Maastrichtian. The oldest spherule layer was deposited near the base of zone CF1 and marks the original spherule-producing event. This is indicated by the presence of a few marl clasts and benthic foraminifera that are frequently surrounded by welded glass, and many welded spherules with schlieren features, indicating that deposition occurred while the glass was still hot and ductile. It is possible that some, or all, of the three stratigraphically younger spherule layers have been reworked from the original spherule deposit, as suggested by the common marl clasts, terrigenous input, reworked benthic and planktic foraminifera, and clusters of agglutinated spherules. These data indicate that at least one spherule-producing event occurred during the late Maastrichtian and provide strong evidence for multiple catastrophic events across the K-T transition.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)145-161
Number of pages17
JournalSpecial Paper of the Geological Society of America
StatePublished - Jan 1 2002

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Geology


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