The Agoudal (High Atlas Mountains, Morocco) shatter cone conundrum: A recent meteorite fall onto the remnant of an impact site

1Hasnaa Chennaoui Aoudjehane, 1Houda El Kerni,2,3Wolf Uwe Reimold, 4,5David Baratoux, 6,7Christian Koeberl, 8Sylvain Bouley,9Mohamed Aoudjehane
Meteoritics & Planetary Science (in Press)  Link to Article [DOI: 10.1111/maps.12661]
1Hassan II University Casablanca, Faculty of Sciences Ain Chock, GAIA Laboratory, Casablanca, Morocco
2Museum für Naturkunde Berlin—Leibniz Institute for Evolution and Biodiversity Science, Berlin, Germany
3Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin, Berlin, Germany
4Géosciences-Environnement-Toulouse, Université Paul Sabatier CNRS & IRD UMR 5563, Toulouse, France
5Institut Fondamental d’Afrique Noire Cheikh Anta Diop, Dakar, Senegal
6Natural History Museum, Vienna, Austria
7Department of Lithospheric Research, University of Vienna, Vienna, Austria
8GEOPS—Géosciences Paris Sud—Université Paris Sud—Bât, Orsay Cedex, France
9Casablanca, Morocco
Published by arrangement with John Wiley & Sons

Associations between impact structures and meteorite occurrences are rare and restricted to very young structures. Meteorite fragments are often disrupted in the atmosphere, and in most cases, meteorite falls that have been decelerated by atmospheric drag do not form a crater. Furthermore, meteorites are rapidly weathered. In this context, the finding of shatter cones in Jurassic marly limestone in the same location as a recent (105 ± 40 ka) iron meteorite fall near the village of Agoudal (High Atlas Mountains, Morocco) is enigmatic. The shatter cones are the only piece of evidence of a meteorite impact in the area.

The overlap of a meteorite strewn field with the area of occurrence of shatter cones led previous researchers to consider that the meteorite fall was responsible for the formation of shatter cones in the context of formation of one or several small (<100 m) impact craters that had since been eroded. Shatter cones are generally not reported in association with subkilometer-diameter impact craters. Here, we present new field observations and an analysis of the distribution and characteristics of shatter cones, breccia, and meteorites in the Agoudal area. Evidence for local deformation not related to the structural High Atlas tectonics has been observed, such as a vertical to overturned stratum trending N150-N160. New outcrops with exposures of shatter cones are reported and extend the previously known area of occurrence. The area of in situ shatter cones (~0.15 km2) and the strewn field of meteorites are distinct, although they show some overlap. The alleged impact breccia is revealed as calcrete formations. No evidence for a genetic relationship between the shatter cones and the meteorites can be inferred from field observations. The extent of the area where in situ shatter cones and macrodeformation not corresponding to Atlas tectonic deformation are observed suggest that the original diameter of an impact structure could have been between at least 1–3 km. For typical erosion rates in the Atlas region (~0.08 cm yr−1), the period of time required for the erosion of such a structure (1.25–3.75 Ma) is much larger than the age of the meteorite fall. This line of reasoning excludes a genetic link between the shatter cones and the meteorite fall and indicates that the observed shatter cones belong to an ancient impact structure that has been almost entirely eroded.

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