Late Paleocene Arctic Ocean shallow-marine temperatures from mollusc stable isotopes

Karen L. Bice, Michael A. Arthur, Louie Marincovich

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44 Scopus citations


Late Paleocene high-latitude (80° N) Arctic Ocean shallow-marine temperatures are estimated from molluscan δ18O time series. Sampling of individual growth increments of two specimens of the bivalve Camptochlamys alaskensis provides a high-resolution record of shell stable isotope composition. The heavy carbon isotopic values of the specimens support a late Paleocene age for the youngest marine beds of the Prince Creek Formation exposed near Ocean Point, Alaska. The oxygen isotopic composition of regional freshwater runoff is estimated from the mean δ18O value of two freshwater bivalves collected from approximately coeval fluviatile beds. Over a 30-34‰ range of salinity, values assumed to represent the tolerance of C. alaskensis, the mean annual shallow-marine temperature recorded by these individuals is between 11° and 22°C. These values could represent maximum estimates of the mean annual temperature because of a possible warm-month bias imposed on the average δ18O value by slowing or cessation of growth in winter months. The amplitude of the molluscan δ18O time series probably records most of the seasonality in shallow-marine temperature. The annual temperature range indicated is approximately 6°C, suggesting very moderate high-latitude marine temperature seasonality during the late Paleocene. On the basis of analogy with modern Chlamys species, C. alaskensis probably inhabited water depths of 30-50 m. The seasonal temperature range derived from δ18O is therefore likely to be damped relative to the full range of annual sea surface temperatures. High-resolution sampling of molluscan shell material across inferred growth bands represents an important proxy record of seasonality of marine and freshwater conditions applicable at any latitude. If applied to other regions and time periods, the approach used here would contribute substantially to the paleoclimate record of seasonality.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)241-249
Number of pages9
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jun 1996

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Oceanography
  • Palaeontology


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