Branched glycerol dialkyl glycerol tetraethers (brGDGTs) of purportedly terrestrial origin are frequently detected in marine sediments, even in remote ocean sites where no direct impact from land erosion via rivers takes place. At these places, the most likely explanation for the presence of brGDGTs is in situ production or eolian transport, but neither possibility has been demonstrated for the open ocean. Here, we report the presence of isoprenoid (iso) and brGDGTs in eight dust samples collected off Northwest Africa. Based on previous studies, prevailing wind patterns, bulk chemistry, n-alkane composition and isotopic signatures, we show that Northwest Africa is the likely principal origin of the GDGTs in the dust. The concentrations of plant wax n-alkanes in the dust are several orders of magnitude higher than those of GDGTs and, based on the distributions of these two compound classes, we infer that they tag different carbon pools and sources of organic matter. Our finding demonstrates that brGDGTs and isoGDGTs in marine sediments and wind-derived deposits can have an eolian source. Consequently, climate reconstruction may be attempted from wind-derived deposits of brGDGTs, even in remote oceanic areas. © 2013 Elsevier Ltd.