Carbonate "Clumped" Isotope Determination of Seawater Temperature During the End-Triassic Extinction Event
Friday, 19 December 2014
Stromatolites are laminated sedimentary structures that are commonly thought to be created by cyanobacteria, either through the trapping and binding of sediment, or through metabolically-induced precipitation. However, stromatolite formation is poorly understood. In general, stromatolite abundance was higher in the Proterozoic than the Phanerozoic, but notable increases in stromatolite abundance occur in association with Phanerozoic mass extinction events. Here, we focus on stromatolites from the latest Triassic Cotham Marble (United Kingdom) that are associated with the extinction interval. The end-Triassic mass extinction is coincident with large-scale volcanism in the Central Atlantic Magmatic Province (CAMP) and the associated breakup of Pangea. Some hypothesize that CAMP-associated increases in atmospheric CO2 led to a rise in global temperatures and ocean acidification that caused or enhanced the extinction. In order to quantify the role of climate change with respect to the end-Triassic mass extinction, we applied the carbonate “clumped” isotope paleothermometer to the well-preserved Cotham Marble stromatolites. The stromatolites were deposited in the shallow Tethys Sea, and today occur in several localities across the southwestern UK. The stromatolites alternate on the cm scale between laminated and dendrolitic microstructures and each was microdrilled for clumped isotope analysis. The two microstructures display different temperatures of formation, where the dendrolitic portions apparently grew under cooler conditions than laminated layers, and younger layers grew in cooler conditions than older layers. Our results suggest that temperature fluctuated and potentially trended towards amelioration of the warm temperatures during the deposition of the Cotham Marble.