Letter

Geochemical evidence from the Sudbury structure for crustal redistribution by large bolide impacts

  • Nature volume 429, pages 546548 (03 June 2004)
  • doi:10.1038/nature02577
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Abstract

Deformation and melting of the crust during the formation of large impact craters must have been important during the Earth's early evolution, but such processes remain poorly understood1. The 1.8-billion-year-old Sudbury structure2 in Ontario, Canada, is greater than 200 km in diameter and preserves a complete impact section, including shocked basement rocks, an impact melt sheet and fallback material3,4. It has generally been thought that the most voluminous impact melts represent the average composition of the continental crust4, but here we show that the melt sheet now preserved as the Sudbury Igneous Complex is derived predominantly from the lower crust. We therefore infer that the hypervelocity impact caused a partial inversion of the compositional layering of the continental crust. Using geochemical data, including platinum-group-element abundances, we also show that the matrix of the overlying clast-laden Onaping Formation represents a mixture of the original surficial sedimentary strata, shock-melted lower crust and the impactor itself.

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Acknowledgements

This study was generously supported by the University of Toronto, by the Geoscience Laboratories of the Ontario Geological Survey, and by the Geological Survey of Canada.Author's contributions Mapping and sampling was performed by J.E.M., D.E.A. and J.J.H.; geochemical interpretation was done by J.E.M., D.E.A. and J.J.H., in decreasing order of relative contribution.

Author information

Affiliations

  1. Department of Geology, University of Toronto, 22 Russell St, Toronto, Ontario M5S 3B1, Canada

    • James E. Mungall
    •  & Jacob J. Hanley
  2. Geological Survey of Canada, Natural Resources Canada, 601 Booth St, Ottawa, Ontario K1A 0E8, Canada

    • Doreen E. Ames

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Competing interests

The authors declare that they have no competing financial interests.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to James E. Mungall.

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