Assessing the use of U–Th methods to determine the age of cold-water calcareous algae

Linge, H., Lauritzen, S.-E., Mangerud, J., Kamenos, N.A. and Gherardi, J.-M. (2008) Assessing the use of U–Th methods to determine the age of cold-water calcareous algae. Quaternary Geochronology, 3(1-2), pp. 76-88. (doi: 10.1016/j.quageo.2007.09.003)

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Calcitic crusts of calcareous red algae could be suitable material for age determination of raised marine deposits and palaeothermometry at annual to sub-annual resolution. We examined the potential of U–Th dating of cold-water calcareous algae by analysing fossil specimens (n=10) from Kapp Ekholm (Svalbard) and recent specimens from Norway (n=3) and Scotland (n=1). After initial measurements using α-spectrometry, thermal ionisation mass spectrometry (TIMS) was used to study the material in more detail. Recent specimens contain 0.19–1.55 μg g−1U, and the measured (234U/238U) activity ratios vary between 1.12 and 1.30. Fossil specimens contain 1–168 μg g−1 U, and display variable and highly elevated initial (234U/238U) activity ratios. In general, the TIMS results show increasing (234U/238U) activity ratios and concentrations of U and Th with increasing stratigraphic age. From this it is evident that marine calcareous red algae contain U in-vivo and they experience substantial post-mortem uptake of U. We conclude that direct U–Th dating of fossil calcareous algae from raised marine deposits is not viable without further geochemical understanding of the in-vivo uptake and post-depositional pathways of U and Th in such deposits. Despite the convincing open-system behaviour of the material, comparison with previously published chronostratigraphy from the site shows that the calcareous algae generally yield ages that are too old. This is in contrast to the expected result based on simple continuous post-mortem U accumulation and calls for a complex model comprising migration of U and multi-component addition of Th (detrital/colloidal) to explain the observed trends.

Item Type:Articles
Glasgow Author(s) Enlighten ID:Kamenos, Professor Nick
Authors: Linge, H., Lauritzen, S.-E., Mangerud, J., Kamenos, N.A., and Gherardi, J.-M.
Subjects:Q Science > QE Geology
College/School:College of Science and Engineering > School of Geographical and Earth Sciences
Journal Name:Quaternary Geochronology
Published Online:09 October 2009

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