The Cretaceous–Tertiary transition in Guatemala: limestone breccia deposits from the South Petén basin
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- Stinnesbeck, W., Keller, G., de la Cruz, J. et al. Geol Rundsch (1997) 86: 686. doi:10.1007/s005310050171
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Limestone breccia deposits in southern Mexico, Guatemala and Belize have recently been interpreted as proximal to distal ballistic fallout deposits, generated by a bolide impact that struck Yucatan at K/T boundary time. We review the age, lithology and the depositional environment of five K/T boundary sections in the South Petén area of Guatemala (Caribe, Aserradero, Chisec, Actela, Chemal) in order to evaluate the nature and origin of K/T limestone breccia deposition. The sections are located 500 km south of the proposed impact site at Chicxulub and trend in an east–west direction from the Guatemala/Mexico border to southern Belize. In four of the five sections examined, a breccia unit up to 50 m thick overlies reef-bearing shallow-water limestones of late Cretaceous (Campanian-Maastrichtian) age. Rhythmically bedded limestones, marls and siltstones of early Danian age overlie the breccia and were deposited under middle-to outer-neritic conditions. The breccia consists of differently coloured layers of shallow-water limestones. Clast size generally decreases upsection to thin layers of predominantly rounded clasts, and these fine-grained rudstones grade into grainstones at the top. In at least one section (EI Caribe) diagenetically altered glass spherules are present in the uppermost layers of the grainstone. These glass spherules are of stratigraphic position and chemical composition similar to black and yellow glass from Beloc, Haiti and Mimbral, Mexico, which some workers have chemically linked to melt glass within the breccia of the Chicxulub cores. We suggest that breccia deposition in Guatemala may have been multi-event, over an extended time period, and related to the collision of the Yucatan and Chortis plates as well as related to a major impact or volcanic event at the end of the Cretaceous.