Cenozoic seawater Sr/Ca evolution Academic Article uri icon


  • Records of seawater chemistry help constrain temporal variations in geochemical processes that impact the global carbon cycle and climate through Earth's history. Here we reconstruct Cenozoic seawater Sr/Ca (Sr/Ca sw) using fossil Conus and turritellid gastropod Sr/Ca. Combined with an oxygen isotope paleotemperature record from the same samples, the gastropod record suggests that Sr/Casw was slightly higher in the Eocene (11.43 mmol/mol) than today (8.54 mmol/mol) and remained relatively stable from the mid-to late Cenozoic. We compare our gastropod Cenozoic Sr/Casw record with a published turritellid gastropod Sr/Ca sw record and other published biogenic (benthic foraminifera, fossil fish teeth) and inorganic precipitate (calcite veins) Sr/Casw records. Once the uncertainties with our gastropod-derived Sr/Casw are taken into account the Sr/Casw record agrees reasonably well with biogenic Sr/Casw records. Assuming a seawater [Ca] history derived from marine evaporite inclusions, all biogenic-based Sr/Casw reconstructions imply decreasing seawater [Sr] through the Cenozoic, whereas the calcite vein Sr/Casw reconstruction implies increasing [Sr] through the Cenozoic. We apply a simple geochemical model to examine the implications of divergence among these seawater [Sr] reconstructions and suggest that the interpretation and uncertainties associated with the gastropod and calcite vein proxies need to be revisited. Used in conjunction with records of carbonate depositional fluxes, our favored seawater Sr/Ca scenarios point to a significant increase in the proportion of aragonite versus calcite deposition in shelf sediments from the Middle Miocene, coincident with the proliferation of coral reefs. We propose that this occurred at least 10 million years after the seawater Mg/Ca threshold was passed, and was instead aided by declining levels of atmospheric carbon dioxide. 2012. American Geophysical Union. All Rights Reserved.

published proceedings


author list (cited authors)

  • Sosdian, S. M., Lear, C. H., Tao, K., Grossman, E. L., O'Dea, A., & Rosenthal, Y.

citation count

  • 17

complete list of authors

  • Sosdian, Sindia M||Lear, Caroline H||Tao, Kai||Grossman, Ethan L||O'Dea, Aaron||Rosenthal, Yair

publication date

  • January 1, 2012 11:11 AM