Paper No. 217-3
Presentation Time: 8:45 AM
ARAGONITE PRECIPITATION IN THE LATE ORDOVICIAN ‘CALCITE SEA’ — EVIDENCE FROM A MULTI-PROXY GEOCHEMICAL APPROACH
A positive excursion in δ26Mg values (2–3‰) is observed, recorded in a carbonate succession in the Monitor Range, Nevada, spanning the Late Ordovician (Hirnantian) glaciation event. The increase in δ26Mg values is synchronous with previously detailed δ44/40Ca and δ13C excursions in the same section, an observation at odds with the large difference in residence times between Mg, Ca, and C, suggesting that the isotopic shifts are not the result of global-ocean cycling. A mixing analysis reveals that the positive shift in δ26Mg values in the whole-rock carbonate is due to a small increase in dolomite abundance. The analysis is also used to determine original limestone δ26Mg values in marine carbonates, revealing stratigraphic changes in the δ26Mg values of the carbonate deposited during the glacial sea-level lowstand, and the pre-glacial and post-glacial sea-level highstands. The limestone end-member exhibits a higher δ26Mg value for carbonate deposited in the sea-level lowstand, consistent with precipitation of primary aragonite during the Hirnantian glaciation in this tropical-shelf setting, and lower δ26Mg values before and after the glaciation, which is consistent with the precipitation of calcite during the sea-level highstands. However, the effects of diagenesis on δ26Mg values in carbonate sediment are difficult to predict, therefore Mg isotopes alone do not permit a conclusive determination of primary carbonate polymorph mineralogy. A synchronous negative shift in δ44/40Ca values, positive shift in δ13C values, and intermittently high Sr/Ca ratios recorded in the carbonates deposited during the sea-level lowstand interval add support to the interpretation of aragonite deposition during the glaciation. Previous laboratory experiments have also demonstrated that aragonite can precipitate in seawater with the chemistry of a ‘calcite sea’ at temperatures above 20–23°C, which was likely common at low latitudes in the early Paleozoic. This study demonstrates the utility of applying a multi-proxy geochemical approach using Mg, Ca, and C isotopes, and elemental Sr/Ca ratios to reveal aragonite that has inverted to calcite over geologic time. It also cautions against misinterpreting facies-dependent changes in carbonate mineralogy as genuine records of secular variation in seawater chemistry.