Event- and biostratigraphic evidence for two independent Ries and Steinheim asteroid impacts in the Middle MioceneOPEN ACCESS 

Elmar Buchner, Volker J. Sach & Martin Schmieder

Scientific Reports, Volume 12, Article number: 18603
Published: 03 November 2022


“For decades, the Nördlinger Ries and Steinheim Basin in southern Germany have been regarded as a textbook example of a terrestrial impact crater doublet, although the oldest crater lake deposits in both craters suggest a biostratigraphic age difference of ~ 0.5 to 1 Myr. We previously presented stratigraphic arguments that challenged the double impact scenario and favoured a model of two temporally independent impact events in the Mid-Miocene. We here present, for the first time, four localities within a distance of ~ 50–100 km from the Ries and ~ 50–70 km from the Steinheim crater that expose two independent seismite horizons, together unique within the Upper Freshwater Molasse of the North Alpine Foreland Basin, each one featuring impressive water escape structures. The seismite horizons are separated by ~ 10 to 15 m of undisturbed Molasse deposits and, biostratigraphically, by an entire European Land Mammal Zone, thus providing evidence for two independent major seismic events within a time span of ~ 0.5–1 Myr. Both the lower and the upper seismite horizons can be correlated litho- and biostratigraphically with the basal crater lake sediments at the Ries and Steinheim craters, respectively, deposited immediately after the impacts. From a biostratigraphic point of view, the impact event that formed the Steinheim Basin probably occured around 14 Ma, some 0.8 Myr after the ~ 14.81 Ma Ries impact event.”