A critical assessment of mollusk 18O/ 16O, Mg/Ca, and 44Ca/ 40Ca ratios as proxies for Cretaceous seawater temperature seasonality

Adrian Immenhauser, Thomas F. Nägler, Thomas Steuber, Dorothee Hippler

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84 Scopus citations


Seasonal temperature fluctuations of Tethyan coastal water are recorded in a pristine, ∼80-My-old rudist shell from Turkey. In order to critically assess factors other than seawater temperature that might have influenced the shell geochemical record, three different paleo-temperature proxies (δ 18O, Mg/Ca and δ 44Ca) were applied. In a qualitative manner, all three proxies reflect the same cyclical trends and thus yield robust evidence for seasonal fluctuations in Late Cretaceous surficial seawater temperature. This suggests the successful application of the new δ 44Ca temperature proxy to fossil mollusk calcite. The direct comparison of the three data sets, however, demonstrates that all proxies are fraught with problems. Similar to other studies, 18O/ 16O ratios point to warmer summer temperature maxima than those in comparable costal settings today. Nevertheless, the 18O/ 16O proxy is subject to environmental factors that might lead to an overestimation of peak temperatures. Moreover, Mg/Ca molar ratios are less sensitive to environmental factors but were strongly affected by the ion regulating capability of the rudist bivalve that responded to the low Mg/Ca ratio of Cretaceous seawater. Similarly, uncertainties of the δ 44Ca composition of Cretaceous seawater and the complex bio-calcification of mollusks presently limit the interpretation of δ 44Ca values in terms of absolute seawater temperature. The multiproxy approach applied here, however, documents that these limitations do not obscure the dominant patterns of seasonal sea-surface temperature variations recorded in the biogeochemical rudist archive.

Original languageBritish English
Pages (from-to)221-237
Number of pages17
JournalPalaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology
Issue number3-4
StatePublished - 6 Jan 2005


  • Calcium isotopes
  • Campanian
  • Cretaceous
  • Geochemistry
  • Rudist bivalves
  • Sea-surface temperature
  • Stable isotopes


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