An Assessment of the Precambrian/Cambrian Transition Events on the Basis of Carbon Isotope Records

  • Paul Aharon
  • T. C. Liew

Abstract

Renewed interest in the isotope events at the Precambrian/Cambrian (PC/C) transition has led to a recent proliferation of high resolution δ13C records acquired from sedimentary carbonate sections that are stratigraphically continuous. These δ13C records generally show a bimodal distribution of values, with a 13C-enriched mode in the end-Precambrian and a sharp transition to a 13C-depleted mode at, or slightly above, the inferred PC/C boundary. The time-bound δ13C excursions have considerable potential as chronostratigraphic markers which are independent of the controversial biostratigraphic definitions currently used to delineate the PC/C boundary. The relation between δ13C shifts and oceanic fertility changes is reasonably well known but the circumstances under which these changes have occurred at the PC/C boundary are unclear. Using quantitative arguments derived from a simplified carbon cycle model, an ocean stratification event is proposed to have occurred during the latest Vendian followed by a turnover and a return to a ventilated ocean in the lowest Cambrian. The exact relationship between the changing rates of ocean ventilation and the seemingly contemporaneous faunal turnovers remains to be explored.

An understanding of the process of dolomitization is essential for the correct interpretation of the δ13C records because of the predominance of dolomites at the end Precambrian. Using the Lesser Himalaya section as a case study, it is shown that samples contain at least two phases of dolomitization and only the early phase contains the seawater imprint. Late dolomite phases are significantly more depleted in 18O and 13C and more enriched in radiogenic 87Sr relative to the early dolomite phases, and preserve the imprint of hot fluids of crustal provenance which advected through the sediments during burial. The linear relationship observed between the δ18O and δ13C compositions of all dolomite phases does not offer evidence of primary dolomite precipitation from Precambrian sea water, as recently proposed by Tucker,but attests to the conspicuous absence of soil-derived CO2 prior to the advent of organic soils.

Keywords

Biomass Sedimentation Shale Fractionation Explosive 

Preview

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

References

  1. Aharon P, Chappell J (1986) Oxygen isotopes, sea level changes and the temperature history of a coral reef environment in New Guinea over the last 105yrs. Palaeogeogr Palaeoclimatol Palaeoecol 56: 337–379CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Aharon P, Schidlowski M. Singh IB (1987a) Chronostratigraphic markers in the end-Precambrian carbon isotope record of the Lesser Himalaya. Nature (London) 327: 699–702CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Aharon P, Socki RA, Chan L (1987b) Dolomitization of atolls by sea water convection flow: test of a hypothesis at Niue, South Pacific. J Geol 95: 187–203CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Arthur MA, Dean WE, Schlanger SO (1985 a) Variations in the global carbon cycle during the Cretaceous related to climate, volcanism, and changes in atmospheric CO2. In: Sundquist ET, Broecker WS (eds) The carbon cycle and atmospheric CO2: natural variations Archean to Present. Geophysical monograph 32. Am Geophys Union, Washington DC, pp. 504–529CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Arthur MA, Dean WE, Claypool GE (1985b) Anomalous 13C-enrichment in modern marine organic matter. Nature (London) 315: 216–218CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Awramik SM (1971) Precambrian columnar stromatolite diversity: reflection of metazoan appearance. Science 174: 825–827CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Awramik SM (1986) The Precambrian-Cambrian boundary and geochemical perturbations. Nature (London) 319: 696CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Banerjee DM, Schidlowski M, Arneth JD (1986) Genesis of upper Proterozoic-Cambrian phosphorite deposits of India: isotopic inferences from carbonate fluorapatite, carbonate and organic carbon. Precambrian Res 33: 239–253CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Bjorlykke K (1982) Correlation of late Precambrian and early Paleozoic sequences by eustatic sea level changes and the selection of the Precambrian-Cambrian boundary. Precambrian Res 17: 99–104CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Brasier MD (1980) The lower Cambrian transgression and glauconite-phosphate facies in western Europe. J Geol Soc London 137:695–703CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Brasier MD (1982) Sea level changes, facies changes and the late Precambrian-early Cambrian evolutionary explosion. Precambrian Res 17: 105–123CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Brasier MD, Singh P (1987) Microfossils and Precambrian-Cambrian boundary stratigraphy at Maldeota, Lesser Himalaya. Geol Mag 124: 323–345CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Broecker WS (1982) Ocean chemistry during glacial time. Geochim Cosmochim Acta 46: 1689–1705CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Cook PJ, Shergold JH (1984) Phosphorus, phosphorites and skeletal evolution at the Precambrian-Cambrian boundary. Nature (London) 308:231–236CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Cowie JW, Glaessner MF (1975) The Precambrian-Cambrian boundary: a symposium. Earth Sci Rev 11:209–251CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Cowie JW, Rozanov AY (1983) Precambrian-Cambrian boundary candidate, Aldan River, Yakutia, USSR. Geol Mag 120:129–139CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Craig H (1957) Isotopic standards for carbon and oxygen and correction factors for mass spectrometric analysis of carbon dioxide. Geochim Cosmochim Acta 12: 133–149CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Daly RA (1909) First calcareous fossils and the evolution of the limestones. Am Geol Soc Bull: 153–170Google Scholar
  19. Degens ET. Kazmierczak J, Ittekkot V (1986) Biomineralization and the carbon isotope record. Tschermaks Mineral Petrol Mitt 35:117–126CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Donovan SK (1987) The fit of the continents in the late Precambrian. Nature (London) 327:139–141CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Elderfield H (1986) Strontium isotope stratigraphy. Palaeogeogr Palaeoclimatol Palaeoecol 57:71–90CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Faure G (1986) Principles of isotope geology. John Wiley & Sons, New York, 587 ppGoogle Scholar
  23. Goodfellow WD (1986) Anoxic oceans and short-term carbon isotope trends. Nature (London) 322:116–117CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Hirsch P (1978) Microbial mats in a hypersaline Solar Lake:Types, composition and distribution. In:Krumbein WE (ed) Environmental biogeochemistry and geo-microbiology. The aquatic environment 1. Ann Arbor Science, Michigan, pp 189–201Google Scholar
  25. Holser WT (1977) Catastrophic chemical events in the history of the ocean. Nature (London) 267:403–408CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Hsu KJ (1986) The Precambrian-Cambrian boundary and geochemical perturbations-replies. Nature (London) 319:697CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Hsu KJ, Oberhansli H, Gao JY, Shu S, Haihong C, Krahenbuhl U (1985) “Strangelove” ocean before the Cambrian explosion. Nature (London) 316:809–811CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Irwin H, Curtis C, Coleman M (1977) Isotopic evidence for source of diagenetic carbonates formed during burial of organic-rich sediments. Nature (London) 269:209–213CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Keith ML (1982) Violent volcanism, stagnant oceans and some inferences regarding petroleum, strata-bound ores and mass extinctions. Geochim Cosmochim Acta 46:2621–2637CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Keto LS, Jacobsen SB (1987) Nd and Sr isotopic variations of early Paleozoic oceans. Earth Planet Sci Lett 84:27–41CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Kolodny Y (1980) Carbon isotopes and depositional environment of a high productivity sedimentary sequence-the case of the Mishash-Ghareb Formations, Israel. Isr J Earth Sci 29: 147–156Google Scholar
  32. Knoll AH, Butterfield NJ (1989) New window on Proterozoic life. Nature (London) 337:602–603CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Knoll AH, Hayes JM, Kaufman AJ, Swett K, Lambert IB (1986) Secular variation in carbon isotope ratios from upper Proterozoic successions of Svalbard and East Greenland. Nature (London) 321:832–838CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Lambert IB, Walter MR, Wenlong Z, Songnian L, Guogan M (1987) Palaeoenvironment and carbon isotope stratigraphy of upper Proterozoic carbonates of the Yangtze Platform. Nature (London) 325: 140–142CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Magaritz M (1989) 13C minima follow extinction events:a clue to faunal radiation. Geology 17: 337–340CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Magaritz M, Schulze KH (1980) Carbon isotope anomaly of the Permian period. Contrib Sedimentol 9:269–277Google Scholar
  37. Magaritz M, Holser WT, Kirschvink JL (1986) Carbon isotope events across the Precambrian/Cambrian boundary on the Siberian Platform. Nature (London) 320:258–259CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Matthews SC, Cowie JW (1979) Early Cambrian transgression. J Geol Soc London 136: 133–135CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. McMenamin MAS (1987) The emergence of animals. Sci Am 256:94–102CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Morris SC, Bengtson S (1986) The Precambrian-Cambrian boundary and goechemical perturbations. Nature (London) 319:696–697CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Orth CJ, Gilmore JS, Quintana LR, Sheehan PM (1986) Terminal Ordovician extinction:geochemical analysis of the Ordovician, Silurian boundary, Anticosti Island, Quebec. Geology 14:433–436CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Pratt BR (1982) Stromatolite decline-a reconsideration. Geology 10:512–515CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Schidlowski M, Eichmann R. Junge CE (1975) Precambrian sedimentary carbonates:carbon and oxygen isotope geochemistry and implications for the terrestrial oxygen budget. Precambrian Res 2: 1–69CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Schidlowski M, Matzigkeit U, Mook WG, Krumbein WE (1985) Carbon isotope geochemistry and 14C ages of microbial mats from the Gavish Sabkha and the Solar Lake. In: Friedman GM, Krumbein WE (eds) Hypersaline ecosystems. Ecological studies 53. Springer Berlin Heidelberg New York, pp 381–401CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Singh IB, Rai V (1983) Fauna and biogenic structures in Krol-Tal succession (Vendian-early Cambrian), Lesser Himalaya: their biostratigraphic and palaeoecological significance. J Palaeontol Soc India 28:67–90Google Scholar
  46. Smith SV (1981) Marine macrophytes as a global carbon sink. Science 211:838–840CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Tucker ME (1982) Precambrian dolomites: petrographic and isotopic evidence that they differ from Phanerozoic dolomites. Geology 10:7–12CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Tucker ME (1986) Carbon isotope excursions in Precambrian/Cambrian boundary beds, Morocco. Nature (London) 319:48–50CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Vidal G, Knoll AH (1983) Proterozoic plankton. Mem Geol Soc Am 161:265–277Google Scholar
  50. Veizer J (1983) Trace elements and isotopes in sedimentary carbonates. Rev Mineral 11:265–300Google Scholar
  51. Veizer J (1989) Strontium isotopes in sea water through time. Annu Rev Earth Planet Sci 17:141–167CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  52. Veizer J, Hoefs J (1976) The nature of 18O/16O and 13C/12C secular trends in sedimentary carbonate rocks. Geochim Cosmochim Acta 40: 1387–1395CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  53. Walter MR (1989) Major features in record of Proterozoic stromatolites. 28th Int Geol Congr Abstr 3:318–319Google Scholar
  54. Wright J (1989) REE in fossil apatite record Phanerozoic OAE. 28th Int Geol Congr Abstr 3:383–384Google Scholar
  55. Yanshin AL, Zharkov MA (1986) Epochs and evolution of phosphate deposition through geologic time. Int Geol Rev 28:390–401CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  56. Zang WL, Walter MR (1989) Latest Proterozoic plankton from the Amadeus Basin in central Australia. Nature (London) 337:642–645CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  57. ZengerDH, Dunham JB, Ethington RL (eds) (1980) Concepts and models of dolomitization. SEPM Spec Publ 28, 320 ppGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 1992

Authors and Affiliations

  • Paul Aharon
    • 1
  • T. C. Liew
    • 1
  1. 1.Max-Planck Institut für ChemieMainzGermany

Personalised recommendations