The micrometeorite flux to Earth during the Frasnian–Famennian transition reconstructed in the Coumiac GSSP section, France

Birger Schmitz, Raimund Feist, Matthias M.M. Meier, Ellinor Martin, Philipp R. Heck, Davide Lenaz, Dan Topa, Henner Busemann, Colin Maden, Amy A. Plant, Fredrik Terfelt

Earth and Planetary Science Letters
Volume 522, 15 September 2019, Pages 234-243



• First data on the meteorite flux to Earth during the Frasnian–Famennian bioevent.
• No support of asteroid shower, but comet or carbonaceous asteroid shower cannot be ruled out.
• Meteorite flux supports eccentricity minimum in Earth’s orbit at bioevent.
• First picture of the variations in meteorite flux through the Phanerozoic.
• Ordinary chondrites made up a major fraction of the flux since at least 466 Ma ago.”

“We have reconstructed the distribution of extraterrestrial chrome spinels in a marine limestone section across the Frasnian–Famennian stratotype section at Coumiac in southern France, providing the first insights on the types of micrometeorites and meteorites that fell on Earth at this time. The data can test whether the small cluster of roughly coeval, large impact structures is related to an asteroid breakup and shower with possible bearings also on the late Devonian biodiversity crisis. A total of ∼180 extraterrestrial spinel grains (>32 μm) were recovered from 957 kg of rock. Noble-gas measurements of individual grains show high solar-wind content, implying an origin from decomposed micrometeorites. Element analyses indicate a marked dominance of ordinary chondritic over achondritic grains, similar to the recent flux. The relation between H, L and LL meteorites is ∼29–58–13%, similar to the late Silurian flux, ∼31–63–6%, but different from the distribution, ∼45–45–10%, in the recent and the Cretaceous flux. Our data show no indication of a generally enhanced late Devonian micrometeorite flux that would accompany an asteroid shower. However, in a single limestone bed that formed immediately before the Upper Kellwasser horizon, that represents the main end-Frasnian species-turnover event, we found an enrichment of ∼10 ordinary chondritic grains (>63 μm) per 100 kg of rock, compared to the ∼1–3 grains per 100 kg that characterise background. The anomalously abundant grains are of mixed H, L and LL types and may be related to an enhanced flux of extraterrestrial dust during postulated minima in both the 405 ka and 2.4 Ma Earth-orbit eccentricity cycles at the onset of the Upper Kellwasser event. In the present solar system the dust accretion at Earth is the highest at eccentricity minima because of the spatial distribution of dust bands of the zodiacal cloud. Besides this small grain anomaly the data here and in previous studies support a stable meteorite flux through the late Silurian and Devonian, in contrast to the mid-Ordovician, when achondritic meteorites that are rare on Earth today were common, followed by the influx of a flood of debris related to the breakup of the L-chondrite parent body. Our accumulated data for six time windows through the Phanerozoic indicate that the ordinary chondrites make up a major fraction in the meteorite flux since at least the mid-Ordovician. We note that the sources in the asteroid belt of the H and L meteorites, the two most common types of meteorites today and through much of the Phanerozoic, remain elusive.”