The Steptoean Positive Carbon Isotope Excursion (SPICE), inorganic aragonite precipitation and seawater chemistry: Insights from the Middle - Late Cambrian Port au Port Group, Newfoundland

Joyce Neilson* (Corresponding Author), Rosalia Barili, Alexander Brasier, Luiz F. De Ros, Sarah R. Ledingham

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

The Late Cambrian Steptoean Positive Carbon Isotope Excursion marks a time of significant change in ocean chemistry and trilobite faunas. On the lead up to the carbon isotope excursion and at the excursion itself, there is global evidence from Laurentia and Gondwana of cementation by primary aragonite in shallow subtidal environments accompanied by deposition of aragonitic ooids. However, this occurred at a time widely considered to have been characterised by ‘calcite seas’ when the primary inorganic phases (marine cements and ooids) are normally presumed calcitic. This study has investigated the chemostratigraphy of the Middle–Late Cambrian Port au Port Group, Newfoundland, including the early marine cements. Here, the marine cements contain increasing concentrations of strontium towards the peak carbon isotope excursion (up to 5500 ppm at the peak excursion) before dropping off post-peak excursion, consistent with the original cements having been aragonitic. This trend is accompanied by relict oomouldic porosity, again suggesting an aragonitic precursor. Primary inorganic mineralogy is largely controlled by the Mg/Ca ratio of sea water but estimates of the Mg/Ca ratio of Late Cambrian oceans are variable (0.8–2). At this level, other factors such as water temperature and pCO2 have been shown to affect mineralogy with warm waters and high levels of CO2 favouring aragonite. It is possible that the warm waters and anoxia that caused the carbon isotope excursion created conditions favourable for the precipitation of aragonite at the same time as major trilobite faunal turnover.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages22
JournalDepositional Record
Early online date12 Nov 2021
DOIs
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 12 Nov 2021

Keywords

  • aragonite
  • cambrian
  • chemostratigraphy
  • SPICE
  • strontium

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