Evidence for an extraterrestrial impact 12,900 years ago that contributed to the megafaunal extinctions and the Younger Dryas cooling

R. B. Firestone, A. West, J. P. Kennett, L. Becker, T. E. Bunch, Z. S. Revay, P. H. Schultz, T. Belgya, D. J. Kennett, J. M. Erlandson, O. J. Dickenson, A. C. Goodyear, R. S. Harris, G. A. Howard, J. B. Kloosterman, P. Lechler, P. A. Mayewski, J. Montgomery, R. Poreda, T. DarrahS. S. Que Hee, A. R. Smitha, A. Stich, W. Topping, J. H. Wittke, W. S. Wolbach

Research output: Article

338 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

A carbon-rich black layer, dating to ≈12.9 ka, has been previously identified at ≈50 Clovis-age sites across North America and appears contemporaneous with the abrupt onset of Younger Dryas (YD) cooling. The in situ bones of extinct Pleistocene megafauna, along with Clovis tool assemblages, occur below this black layer but not within or above it. Causes for the extinctions, YD cooling, and termination of Clovis culture have long been controversial. In this paper, we provide evidence for an extraterrestrial (ET) impact event at ≅12.9 ka, which we hypothesize caused abrupt environmental changes that contributed to YD cooling, major ecological reorganization, broad-scale extinctions, and rapid human behavioral shifts at the end of the Clovis Period. Clovis-age sites in North American are overlain by a thin, discrete layer with varying peak abundances of (i) magnetic grains with iridium, (ii) magnetic microspherules, (iii) charcoal, (iv) soot, (v) carbon spherules, (vi) glass-like carbon containing nanodiamonds, and (vii) fullerenes with ET helium, all of which are evidence for an ET impact and associated biomass burning at ≈12.9 ka. This layer also extends throughout at least 15 Carolina Bays, which are unique, elliptical depressions, oriented to the northwest across the Atlantic Coastal Plain. We propose that one or more large, low-density ET objects exploded over northern North America, partially destabilizing the Laurentide Ice Sheet and triggering YD cooling. The shock wave, thermal pulse, and event-related environmental effects (e.g., extensive biomass burning and food limitations) contributed to end-Pleistocene megafaunal extinctions and adaptive shifts among PaleoAmericans in North America.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)16016-16021
Number of pages6
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Volume104
Issue number41
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - okt. 9 2007

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North America
Soot
Biomass
Nanodiamonds
Carbon
Fullerenes
Ice Cover
Iridium
Helium
Charcoal
Glass
Hot Temperature
Bone and Bones
Food

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Genetics
  • General

Cite this

Evidence for an extraterrestrial impact 12,900 years ago that contributed to the megafaunal extinctions and the Younger Dryas cooling. / Firestone, R. B.; West, A.; Kennett, J. P.; Becker, L.; Bunch, T. E.; Revay, Z. S.; Schultz, P. H.; Belgya, T.; Kennett, D. J.; Erlandson, J. M.; Dickenson, O. J.; Goodyear, A. C.; Harris, R. S.; Howard, G. A.; Kloosterman, J. B.; Lechler, P.; Mayewski, P. A.; Montgomery, J.; Poreda, R.; Darrah, T.; Que Hee, S. S.; Smitha, A. R.; Stich, A.; Topping, W.; Wittke, J. H.; Wolbach, W. S.

In: Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, Vol. 104, No. 41, 09.10.2007, p. 16016-16021.

Research output: Article

Firestone, RB, West, A, Kennett, JP, Becker, L, Bunch, TE, Revay, ZS, Schultz, PH, Belgya, T, Kennett, DJ, Erlandson, JM, Dickenson, OJ, Goodyear, AC, Harris, RS, Howard, GA, Kloosterman, JB, Lechler, P, Mayewski, PA, Montgomery, J, Poreda, R, Darrah, T, Que Hee, SS, Smitha, AR, Stich, A, Topping, W, Wittke, JH & Wolbach, WS 2007, 'Evidence for an extraterrestrial impact 12,900 years ago that contributed to the megafaunal extinctions and the Younger Dryas cooling', Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, vol. 104, no. 41, pp. 16016-16021. https://doi.org/10.1073/pnas.0706977104
Firestone, R. B. ; West, A. ; Kennett, J. P. ; Becker, L. ; Bunch, T. E. ; Revay, Z. S. ; Schultz, P. H. ; Belgya, T. ; Kennett, D. J. ; Erlandson, J. M. ; Dickenson, O. J. ; Goodyear, A. C. ; Harris, R. S. ; Howard, G. A. ; Kloosterman, J. B. ; Lechler, P. ; Mayewski, P. A. ; Montgomery, J. ; Poreda, R. ; Darrah, T. ; Que Hee, S. S. ; Smitha, A. R. ; Stich, A. ; Topping, W. ; Wittke, J. H. ; Wolbach, W. S. / Evidence for an extraterrestrial impact 12,900 years ago that contributed to the megafaunal extinctions and the Younger Dryas cooling. In: Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America. 2007 ; Vol. 104, No. 41. pp. 16016-16021.
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T1 - Evidence for an extraterrestrial impact 12,900 years ago that contributed to the megafaunal extinctions and the Younger Dryas cooling

AU - Firestone, R. B.

AU - West, A.

AU - Kennett, J. P.

AU - Becker, L.

AU - Bunch, T. E.

AU - Revay, Z. S.

AU - Schultz, P. H.

AU - Belgya, T.

AU - Kennett, D. J.

AU - Erlandson, J. M.

AU - Dickenson, O. J.

AU - Goodyear, A. C.

AU - Harris, R. S.

AU - Howard, G. A.

AU - Kloosterman, J. B.

AU - Lechler, P.

AU - Mayewski, P. A.

AU - Montgomery, J.

AU - Poreda, R.

AU - Darrah, T.

AU - Que Hee, S. S.

AU - Smitha, A. R.

AU - Stich, A.

AU - Topping, W.

AU - Wittke, J. H.

AU - Wolbach, W. S.

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