Neogene Low-latitude Seasonal Environmental Variations: Stable Isotopic and Trace Elemental Records in Mollusks from the Florida Platform and the Central American Isthmus
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This Ph.D. dissertation integrates stable isotope and trace element geochemistry in modern and fossil gastropod shells to study low-latitude marine paleoenvironments. First, stable isotopes (delta18O and delta13C) and Sr/Ca ratios are used to examine low-latitude temperature and salinity variations recorded in Plio-Pleistocene (3.5-1.6 Ma) fossils from western Florida during periods of high-latitude warming and "global" cooling. The middle Pliocene Pinecrest Beds (Units 7 and 4) and the overlaying Plio-Pleistocene Caloosahatchee Formation generate significantly different delta18O-derived paleotemperatures but identical Sr/Ca ratios. High delta18O values, together with low delta13C values and brackish fauna, indicate that Unit 4 was deposited in a lagoonal environment similar to modern Florida Bay. In contrast, relatively low delta18O and high delta13C values in Unit 7 and Caloosahatchee Formation represent deposition in an open-marine environment. The observed Unit 7 and Caloosahatchee paleotemperatures are inconsistent with middle Pliocene warming event, but consistent with the Plio-Pleistocene cooling trend. To quantify modern upwelling and freshening signals and contrast these signals between the tropical eastern Pacific (TEP) and southwestern Caribbean (SWC), methodologies are developed for reconstructing seasonal upwelling and freshening patterns from modern tropical gastropod shells from Panama using: 1) paired oxygen and carbon isotopic profiles and delta18O-delta13C (delta-delta) correlations, and 2) deviation from baseline delta18O values that represent conditions free of seasonal upwelling or freshening influences. Shell delta18O values normalized to the baseline faithfully record modern conditions of little or no upwelling in SWC and Gulf of Chiriqui, and strong upwelling in the Gulf of Panama, as well as strong freshwater input in most areas. The baseline and delta-delta methods are applied to identify and quantify changes in upwelling and freshening in the Neogene TEP and SWC seawaters associated with the final closure of Central American Isthmus. The records reveal significant upwelling in late Miocene SWC and mid Pliocene TEP waters, strong freshening in SWC waters from 5.7-2.2 Ma, and minimal seasonal upwelling and/or freshening variations in Plio-Pleistocene SWC waters. The reconstructed paleotemperatures agree with the global cooling trend through the late Miocene, but lack evidence for middle Pliocene warming or late Neogene global cooling.
Central American Isthmus
Tao, Kai (2012). Neogene Low-latitude Seasonal Environmental Variations: Stable Isotopic and Trace Elemental Records in Mollusks from the Florida Platform and the Central American Isthmus. Doctoral dissertation, Texas A&M University. Available electronically from