Neoproterozoic biotic diversification: snowball Earth or aftermath of the Acraman impact?

Kathleen Grey*, Malcom R. Walter, Clive R. Calver

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

183 Citations (Scopus)


Biostratigraphic and chemostratigraphic studies of Australian late Neoproterozoic (Ediacarian) fossil plankton (acritarch) successions reveal a striking relationship between a radical palynofloral change, a short-lived negative excursion in the carbon isotope composition of kerogen, and a debris layer from the ca. 580 Ma Acraman bolide impact event. Palynomorphs changed from an assemblage dominated by long-ranging, simple spheroids to a much more diverse assemblage characterized by short-ranging, large, complex, process-bearing (acanthomorph) acritarchs, with the first appearance of 57 species. A marked negative carbon isotope excursion was followed by a steady rise coinciding with acanthomorph radiation. There are no apparent sedimentological controls on this radiation. Although the snowball Earth hypothesis predicts postglacial biotic change, radiation did not happen until long after the Marinoan glaciation and not until a second postglacial transgression. We propose that a global extinction and recovery event may have been associated with the Acraman bolide impact. Indications are that the Acraman event could rank with similar Phanerozoic major impact events.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)459-462
Number of pages4
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - May 2003


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