Absolute dating of the L-chondrite parent body breakup with high-precision U–Pb zircon geochronology from Ordovician limestone

Shi Yong Liao, Magdalena H. Huyskens, Qing-Zhu Yin, Birger Schmitz

Earth and Planetary Science Letters
Volume 547, 1 October 2020, 116442



• High-precision dates for events in the asteroid belt can be derived from Earth’s sediment strata.

• The L-chondrite parent-body breakup took place 465.76 ± 0.30 Ma ago.

• This age is based on zircon U–Pb, fossil meteorite 21Ne and bulk-rock 3He data.

• The absolute ages of the present mid-Ordovician timescale are confirmed.”

“The breakup of the L-chondrite parent body (LCPB) in the mid-Ordovician is the largest documented asteroid breakup event during the past 3 Gyr. It affected Earth by a dramatic increase in the flux of L-chondritic material and left prominent traces in both meteorite and sedimentary records. A precise constraint on the timing of the LCPB breakup is important when evaluating the terrestrial biotic and climatic effects of the event, as well as for global stratigraphic correlations. Direct dating using heavily shocked L chondrites is hampered by both incomplete initial K-Ar degassing and isotopic resetting by later impact events. In order to better constrain the absolute age of this event we carried out high-precision U–Pb dating of zircons from three limestone beds recording discrete volcanic ash fallouts within mid-Ordovician strata in southern Sweden. These strata are rich in fossilized L-chondritic meteorites (1-20 cm large) that arrived on Earth shortly after the breakup event. Zircons from the ash-bearing layers provide stratigraphically consistent depositional ages that range from 464.22 ± 0.37 Ma to 465.01 ± 0.26 Ma. Combined with recently published 3He profiles that pinpoint the arrival on Earth of the first dust from the breakup, and sedimentation rates constrained by cosmogenic 21Ne in the fossil meteorites, the LCPB breakup is estimated to have occurred at 465.76 ± 0.30 Ma. This provides the presently most precise absolute dating of the LCPB breakup, enabling a robust global stratigraphic correlation of bounding strata. Based on our new U–Pb data for the ash-bearing beds, the absolute ages for the boundaries of biozones and Dapingian–Floian stages overlap within error with those given by the 2012 Geological Timescale and require no modification.”