Coastal landsliding and catastrophic sedimentation triggered by Cretaceous-Tertiary bolide impact: A Pacific margin example?
We report here the first-recognized Pacific margin stratigraphic sequence containing evidence for catastrophic landsliding attributed to bolide impact related seismic shocking at the Cretaceous-Tertiary (K-T) boundary. The K-T boundary is not commonly preserved in stratigraphic sequences of the Pacific margin, but we have discovered it within a coastal paleovalley in Baja California, Mexico (near El Rosario). This 5-km-wide, 15-km-long, and 200-m-deep coastal paleovalley formed by massive gravitational collapses and rapidly filled with coastal (shallow marine and lesser fluvial) gravels and sands, as well as slide sheets of marine mudstone that range from meters to kilometers in length. We infer that seismic shocking caused liquefaction and extremely rapid sedimentation of the gravels and sands, simultaneous with unleashing of slide sheets. Laser-heating 40Ar/39Ar data for biotite, hornblende, and plagioclase (single crystal and bulk step heating) on a 20-m-thick pumice lapilli tuff in the middle of the valley fill give an age of 65.5 ± 0.6 Ma; this is indistinguishable from the age of Haitian tektites dated by the same laboratory. Our new Pacific margin sequence, like many K-T boundary sequences in the Gulf of Mexico Caribbean region, provides evidence of giant landslides and catastrophic sedimentation 1800 km from the bolide impact site.