Carbonate abundances and isotopic compositions in chondrites

C. M. O’D. Alexander, R. Bowden, M. L. Fogel and K. T. Howard

Meteoritics & Planetary Science. doi: 10.1111/maps.12410


We report the bulk C abundances, and C and O isotopic compositions of carbonates in 64 CM chondrites, 14 CR chondrites, 2 CI chondrites, LEW 85332 (C2), Kaba (CV3), and Semarkona (LL3.0). For the unheated CMs, the total ranges of carbonate isotopic compositions are δ13C ≈ 25–75‰ and δ18O ≈ 15–35‰, and bulk carbonate C contents range from 0.03 to 0.60 wt%. There is no simple correlation between carbonate abundance and isotopic composition, or between either of these parameters and the extent of alteration. Unless accretion was very heterogeneous, the uncorrelated variations in extent of alteration and carbonate abundance suggests that there was a period of open system behavior in the CM parent body, probably prior to or at the start of aqueous alteration. Most of the ranges in CM carbonate isotopic compositions can be explained by their formation at different temperatures (0–130 °C) from a single fluid in which the carbonate O isotopes were controlled by equilibrium with water (δ18O ≈ 5‰) and the C isotopes were controlled by equilibrium with CO and/or CH4 (δ13C ≈ −33‰ or −20‰ for CO- or CH4-dominated systems, respectively). However, carbonate formation would have to have been inefficient, otherwise carbonate compositions would have resembled those of the starting fluid. A quite similar fluid composition (δ18O ≈ −5.5‰, and δ13C ≈ −31‰ or −17‰ for CO- or CH4-dominated systems, respectively) can explain the carbonate compositions of the CIs, although the formation temperatures would have been lower (~10–40 °C) and the relative abundances of calcite and dolomite may play a more important role in determining bulk carbonate compositions than in the CMs. The CR carbonates exhibit a similar range of O isotopes, but an almost bimodal distribution of C isotopes between more (δ13C ≈ 65–80‰) and less altered samples (δ13C ≈ 30–40‰). This bimodality can still be explained by precipitation from fluids with the same isotopic composition (δ18O ≈ −9.25‰, and δ13C ≈ −21‰ or −8‰ for CO- or CH4-dominated systems, respectively) if the less altered CRs had higher mole fractions of CO2 in their fluids. Semarkona and Kaba carbonates have some of the lightest C isotopic compositions of the meteorites studied here, probably because they formed at higher temperatures and/or from more CO2-rich fluids. The fluids responsible for the alteration of chondrites and from which the carbonates formed were almost certainly accreted as ices. By analogy with cometary ices, CO2 and/or CO would have dominated the trapped volatile species in the ices. The chondrites studied are too oxidized for CO-dominated fluids to have formed in their parent bodies. If CH4 was the dominant C species in the fluids during carbonate formation, it would have to have been generated in the parent bodies from CO and/or CO2 when oxidation of metal by water created high partial pressures of H2. The fact that the chondrite carbonate C/H2O mole ratios are of the order predicted for CO/CO2-H2O ices that experienced temperatures of >50–100 K suggests that the chondrites formed at radial distances of <4–15 AU.[/su_quote]