High precision glacial-interglacial benthic foraminiferal Sr/Ca records from the eastern equatorial Atlantic Ocean and Caribbean Sea

Chuan Chou Shen, David W. Hastings, Typhoon Lee, Chin Hsin Chiu, Meng Yang Lee, Kuo Yen Wei, Larry Edwards

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31 Scopus citations


Glacial-interglacial variation in the marine Sr/Ca ratio has important implications for coral Sr thermometry [J.W. Beck et al., Science 257 (1992) 644-647]. A possible variation of 1-3% was proposed based on ocean models [H.M. Stoll and D.P. Schrag, Geochim. Cosmochim. Acta 62 (1998) 1107-1118]. Subsequently, studies have used fossil foraminifera to test this prediction [P.A. Martin et al., Geochem. Geophys. Geosyst. 1 (1999); H.M. Stoll et al., Geochim. Cosmochim. Acta 63 (1999) 3535-3547; H. Elderfield et al., Geochem. Geophys. Geosyst. 1 (2000)]. But whether some component of foraminiferal Sr/Ca variation can be uniquely ascribed to seawater Sr variation is still not clear. To address this question, we developed cleaning and analysis techniques and measured Sr/Ca ratios on individual shells of the modern benthic foraminifer Cibicidoides wuellerstorfi. We showed that different size shells have different Sr/Ca ratios; however, samples with shell sizes of 355-500 μm appear to have normally distributed Sr/Ca ratios (1σ=1.8%). For multi-shell measurements (with estimated errors of 0.12-0.39%), the ratio varied by as much as 7.2 ± 0.5% during the last glaciation for two Caribbean records at the same site and by 3.7 ± 0.5% over the past 40,000 yr for one record from the Sierra Leone Rise in the eastern equatorial Atlantic. The two Caribbean records are very similar indicating that the behavior of shell Sr uptake was identical locally and that the shell Sr/Ca ratio faithfully reflects the local environment. The Atlantic record differs from the Caribbean records by as much as several percent. Thus, the foraminiferal Sr/Ca changes cannot be solely due to changes in seawater Sr/Ca unless the glacial deep ocean had spatial variation in Sr/Ca well in excess of the modern ocean. Certain similarities between the three records do exist. Notably, the rate of change of Sr/Ca is similar between 9 and 0 ka (-0.25%/kyr) and between 25 and 16 ka (+0.16%/kyr). This suggests that during these intervals, benthic foraminiferal Sr/Ca was affected by similar large-scale variables. One of these variables may be the average marine Sr/Ca ratio; however, comparison with model predictions [H.M. Stoll and D.P. Schrag, Geochim. Cosmochim. Acta 62 (1998) 1107-1118] suggests other factors must also be considered. The discrepancies between the two sites may be related to the different water mass histories for the Caribbean and eastern Atlantic. Our results suggest that variation of the seawater Sr budget only partially contributed to C. wuellerstorfi Sr/Ca records, while other significant factors still need to be quantified. At present we cannot confidently determine past seawater Sr/Ca variation from our foraminiferal records.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)197-209
Number of pages13
JournalEarth and Planetary Science Letters
Issue number3-4
StatePublished - 2001

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
C.-C.S. would like to deeply thank S.R. Emerson and G. Shen for their productive discussions and support. Samples of sedimentary core EN066-17GGC were kindly provided by W.B. Curry and J. Broda. Mud samples of TT9108-1GC core were provided by J. Wilson (U.S. NSF OCE97-12024). We thank J.A. Dorale, D.W. Lea, E.A. Boyle, H.J. Spero, L.-A. Li, K.-K. Liu and M.K. Gagan for valuable discussions. We also thank C.-Y. Wang, W.Y. Hsu, G. Unruh, V. Brock and C. Gage for their assistance in this study. We thank W. Myers for his help in picking foraminiferal samples from the bulk core. Critical reviews by J.W. Beck and one anonymous reviewer greatly improved this manuscript. This work was supported by U.S. NOAA NA76GP0537 and R.O.C. NSC85-2611-M-002-004-K2 and partially by R.O.C. NSC89-2116-M-002-048-IM, NSC88-2116-M-001-026, NSC89-2116-M-001-033 and a U.S. NSF Research Training Grant to the University of Minnesota (M. Davis, P.I.). This is contribution GC0626 of the Institute of Earth Sciences, Academia Sinica, Taipei, Taiwan. [AH]


  • Atlantic ocean
  • Benthic taxa
  • Caribbean sea
  • Foraminifera
  • Sea water
  • Sr/Ca


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