An Early Cenozoic Ichthyolith Record from Demerara Rise (ODP Site 1258: Equatorial Atlantic Ocean)

Monday, 15 December 2014
Raquel M Bryant, Brown University, Providence, RI, United States, Elizabeth C Sibert, University of California San Diego, Scripps Institution of Oceanography, La Jolla, CA, United States and Richard D Norris, Scripps Institution of Oceanography, La Jolla, CA, United States
Peak global warmth during the early Eocene is a partial analog to the future structure of marine ecosystems in a high pCO2 world. Early Eocene oceans are generally regarded as supporting warmer oceans with lower overall productivity than today owing to the low concentrations of preserved organic matter in pelagic sediments. It has also been proposed that Eocene oceans were about as productive as now, but higher respiration rates in a warmer-than-modern ocean more efficiently recycled organic matter and nutrients. We investigated Eocene export productivity and its link to taxonomic diversity using the pelagic ichthyolith record. Ichthyoliths are calcium phosphate microfossils including fish teeth and shark denticles and their fragments, and are a unique paleoceanographic proxy because they represent a fossil record for marine vertebrates, a charismatic and tangible part of the ecosystem that generally goes unrepresented in the fossil record. Analysis of the ichthyolith record in Ocean Drilling Program Site 1258 (NE South America) shows a remarkable increase in accumulation rate of ichthyoliths from the Paleocene into the Eocene, suggesting that onset of the Early Eocene Climatic Optimum in the equatorial Atlantic was favorable to fish production. Our results suggest that, if anything, the early Eocene maintained higher productivity than in the late Paleocene. These results compare favorably with a record of ichthyolith accumulation in the South Pacific (DSDP 596), which also indicates unusually high rates of fish productivity in the peak of Eocene warm climates. Low resolution data sets from the Pacific suggest an explosion of morphotypes during the warm period associated with an increase in ichthyolith mass accumulation rates. Peak global warmth, therefore, appears to be associated with both higher fish production and higher taxonomic diversity than suggested by previous reconstructions of Eocene primary production.

Increasing the amount of continuous records of ichthyoliths and identifying morphotypes will improve our understanding of the pelagic community in deep time and specifically its response to global climate change, which will in turn inform us about fish evolution through time and their potential response to anthropogenic climate forcings.