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Isotopic temperatures from the early and mid-pliocene of the US Middle Atlantic coastal plain, and their implications for the cause of regional marine climate changeMean seasonal extreme temperatures on the seafloor calculated from the shell δ18O of the scallop Placopecten clintonius from the basal part of the early Pliocene Sunken Meadow Member (Yorktown Formation) in Virginia are very similar to those from the same horizon at the latitude of Cape Hatteras in North Carolina (~210 km to the south). The lowest and highest temperatures calculated from each shell (using δ18Oseawater = +0.7‰) give mean values for winter and summer of 8.4 ± 1.1 °C (± 1σ) and 18.2 ± 0.6 °C in Virginia, and 8.6 ± 0.4 °C and 16.5 ± 1.1 °C in North Carolina (respective median temperatures: 13.3 °C and 12.6 °C). Patterns of ontogenetic variation in δ18O, δ13C and microgrowth increment size indicate summer water-column stratification in both areas, with summer surface temperatures perhaps 6 °C higher than on the seafloor. The low winter paleotemperatures in both areas are most simply explained by the greater southward penetration of cool northern waters in the absence of a feature equivalent to Cape Hatteras. The same current configuration but a warmer general climate can account for the high benthic seasonal range (over 15.0 °C in some cases) but warmer median temperatures (15.7-21.3 °C) derived from existing δ18O data from scallops of the higher Yorktown Formation (using δ18Oseawater = +0.7‰ for the upper Sunken Meadow Member and δ18Oseawater = +1.1‰ for the mid-Pliocene Rushmere, Morgarts Beach and Moore House members). Existing δ18O data from the infaunal bivalve Mercenaria of the Rushmere Member yields a similarly high median temperature (21.6 °C) but a low seasonal range (9.2 °C), pointing to the periodic influence of warm currents, possibly at times when the Gulf Stream was exceptionally vigorous.
Marine climate and hydrography of the Coralline Crag (early Pliocene, UK): isotopic evidence from 16 benthic invertebrate taxa.The taxonomic composition of the biota of the Coralline Crag Formation (early Pliocene, eastern England) provides conflicting evidence of seawater temperature during deposition, some taxa indicating cool temperate conditions by analogy with modern representatives or relatives, others warm temperate to subtropical/tropical conditions. Previous isotopic (δ18O) evidence of seasonal seafloor temperatures from serial ontogenetic sampling of bivalve mollusk shells indicated cool temperate winter (< 10 °C) and/or summer (< 20 °C) conditions but was limited to nine profiles from two species, one ranging into and one occurring exclusively in cool temperate settings at present. We supplement these results with six further profiles from the species concerned and supply seven more from three other taxa (two supposedly indicative of warm waters) to provide an expanded and more balanced database. We also supply isotopic temperature estimates from 81 spot and whole-shell samples from these five taxa and 11 others, encompassing ‘warm’, ‘cool’ and ‘eurythermal’ forms by analogy with modern representatives or relatives. Preservation tests show no shell alteration. Subject to reasonable assumptions about water δ18O, the shell δ18O data either strongly indicate or are at least consistent with cool temperate seafloor conditions. The subtropical/tropical conditions suggested by the presence of the bryozoan Metrarabdotos did not exist. Microgrowth-increment and δ13C evidence indicate summer water-column stratification during deposition of the Ramsholt Member, unlike in the adjacent southern North Sea at present (well mixed due to shallow depth and strong tidal currents). Summer maximum surface temperature was probably about 5 °C above seafloor temperature and thus often slightly higher than now (17–19 °C rather than 16–17 °C), but only sometimes in the warm temperate range. Winter minimum surface temperature was below 10 °C and possibly the same as at present (6–7 °C). An expanded surface temperature range compared to now may reflect withdrawal of oceanic heat supply in conjunction with higher global temperature.