A Rhaetian 40Ar/39Ar age for the Rochechouart impact structure (France) and implications for the latest Triassic sedimentary record


Corresponding author. E-mail: martin.schmieder@geologie.uni-stuttgart.de


Abstract–40Ar/39Ar dating of potassium feldspar (primary spherulitic-blocky and secondary idiomorphic K-feldspar) separated from impact-metamorphosed gneiss found near Videix in the western central part of the Rochechouart impact structure (NW Massif Central, France) yielded a Rhaetian combined age of 201 ± 2 Ma (2σ), indistinguishable within uncertainty from the age of the Triassic/Jurassic boundary. Ballen quartz intergrown with the primary K-feldspar indicates post-shock temperatures exceeding approximately 1000 °C that affected the precursor gneiss. Geochemically, both feldspar types represent essentially pure potassium end-members. Apart from the approximately 15 km diameter impact deposit area, the youngest crystallization age known for basement rocks in this part of the Massif Central is approximately 300 Ma. No endogenic magmatic-thermal events are known to have occurred later in this region. The K-feldspar recrystallized from local feldspar melts and superimposed post-shock hydrothermal crystallization, probably within some thousands of years after the impact. It is, therefore, suggested that the 40Ar/39Ar age for the Videix gneiss (as a potassic “impact metasomatite”) dates the Rochechouart impact, in consistence with evidence for K-metasomatism in the Rochechouart impactites. The new age value is distinctly younger than the previously obtained Karnian–Norian age for Rochechouart and, thus, contradicts the Late Triassic multiple impact theory postulated some years ago. In agreement with the paleogeographic conditions in the western Tethys domain around the Triassic/Jurassic boundary, the near-coastal to shallow marine Rochechouart impact is compatible with the formation of seismites and tsunami deposits in the latest Triassic of the British Isles and possible related deposits in other parts of Europe.