Retrotapes exalbidus from southern SouthAmerica: are fossil shells reliable proxy archives for Holocene climate changes?

Thomas.Brey [ at ]


In southern South America little is known about the biotic response of marine species to large scale climate variability during the Holocene. Fossil shells of the aragonitic bivalve Retrotapes exalbidus (previously called Eurhomalea) offer the possibility to investigate climate variability in the Beagle Channel and past seasonal dynamics of sea water temperature during the mid-to-late-Holocene. This selection is based on two reasons: extant R. exalbidus preserve annual increments in the outer shell layer (Lomovasky et al., 2002 J. Sea Research 48, 209-216); and, although not very common as other venerids, this species is well preserved in different Holocene marine outcrops along the channel. Holocene fossil shells of R. exalbidus were sectioned, polished, photographed and measured, and after examination three of them were selected for chemical sampling. In each case, one-half of the shell was used to resolve the annual growth bands and the other half was used for stable isotopes sampling. In addition, a fragment of each shell was used to C-14 dating performed in the Poznań Radiocarbon Laboratory with the accelerator mass spectrometry (AMS) technique. Ontogenetic ages were measured by counting the annual growth increments under a stereo microscope. Our results show differences between the three specimens. In the ontogenetic oldest individual (14 years), which gave a calibrated mean value age of 3839 BP, the δ18O values ranged from 1.53‰ to –1.16‰. The two other specimens (8 years), with calibrated mean ages of 5190 BP and 431 BP, gave δ18O values from 1.55‰ to 0.44‰ in the oldest specimen, and from 1.29‰ to 0.72‰, in the youngest one. Besides, we found variations in annual growth increment widths at different radiocarbon ages, probably correlated with environmental changes over the mid-to-late Holocene. We correlated the most positive δ18O values with winter and the most negative δ18O with summer. In addition, the summer values around 3800 yr BP are more negative than around 5000 years or 500 years BP. These findings correlate well with an episode of cooling at ca. 5000 BP, followed by a period of ameliorization (the Hypsithermal at ca. 4000 BP), and towards the end of the Holocene, at ca. 500 years BP, a new cooling event was recorded. This sclerochronological study of the growth patterns and the oxygen isotope ratios in fossil R. exalbidus shells demonstrated that this species clearly exhibited annual cycles showing seasonality patterns through the mid-to-late Holocene, providing an opportunity to analyze intra-seasonal time scales in the fossil record. This study was supported jointly by the CONICET and the DAAD and was made as part of the Scientific Visit of SG to the AWI and the international cooperation from MINCyT and BMBF to BL.

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3rd International Sclerochronology Conference, 01 Jan 2013 - 01 Jan 1970, Caernarfon, Wales, UK.
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Gordillo, S. , Brey, T. , Beyer, K. and Lomovasky, B. (2013): Retrotapes exalbidus from southern SouthAmerica: are fossil shells reliable proxy archives for Holocene climate changes? , 3rd International Sclerochronology Conference, Caernarfon, Wales, UK, 2013 - unspecified .

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