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Oceanic chemistry recorded by cherts during the early Cambrian Explosion, South China TEXT SIZE: A A A
The early Cambrian ocean was marked by significant redox changes, but the detailed redox evolution of seawater and its relationship to biological expansion are not fully understood. Widespread chert successions are present in lower Cambrian deposits on the Yangtze Block, South China, which have great potential to record oceanic chemistry. Here, we analyze rare earth elements (REE) and Si and Fe isotopes along three regional chert sections to constrain the origin of lower Cambrian cherts and the redox conditions of the early Cambrian ocean. The REE patterns and Si isotopes illustrate that lower Cambrian cherts at the Muyang (MY; Yanjiahe Formation) and Zunyi (ZY; Niutitang Formation) locales originated from the replacement of precursor carbonates and black shales, respectively, whereas cherts at Chuanyanping (CYP; Liuchapo Formation) locale originated from direct chemical precipitation from seawater and/or hydrothermal fluids. All cherts, except for several lower CYP cherts with hydrothermal contributions, primarily preserved seawater chemical signals. The Ce/Ce* and Y/Ho ratios indicate that these cherts were deposited near a suboxic/anoxic interface, where seawater may have been ferruginous overall, while more subtle redox changes, namely, ferruginous (less reducing) and ferruginous (more reducing), were identified by Fe isotopes. Based on new data and previous results, we propose that the early Cambrian ocean on the Yangtze Block was characterized by a stratified redox framework. Before similar to 535 Ma in the Cambrian, oxic seawater occurred only along the inner shelf (MSC section), below which seawater was primarily ferruginous (less reducing). During similar to 535-526 Ma, oxic seawater gradually expanded to the outer shelf (MY section) and a metastable ferruginous (more reducing) zone dynamically existed at shelf-slope locations. Temporal and spatial comparisons revealed that the water column on the Yangtze Block may have experienced a progressive deepening of the redoxcline during the early Cambrian (similar to 535-526 Ma). The metastable redox zone may have been an analogue of the modern oxygen minimal zone (OMZ), which is associated with biological activity and high productivity. The occurrence and spatial fluctuation of the metastable ferruginous (more reducing) zone may have been associated with the evolution of small shelly fossils from assemblage 1 (SSF1) to assemblage 3 (SSF3) and their spatial expansion from shelf to slope. Therefore, accompanied by oceanic oxygenation, the occurrence and spatial fluctuation of an OMZ-like metastable zone may have regulated the biological diversification and distribution during the early Cambrian (similar to 535-526 Ma).

Publication name

 PALAEOGEOGRAPHY PALAEOCLIMATOLOGY PALAEOECOLOGY Volume: 558 Article Number: 109961 DOI: 10.1016/j.palaeo.2020.109961 Published: NOV 15 2020


 Zhang, Hongjie; Fan, Haifeng; Wen, Hanjie; Zhu, Xiangkun; Tian, Shihong

Corresponding author(s) 

 FAN Haifeng 
 -Chinese Acad Sci, Inst Geochem, State Key Lab Ore Deposit Geochem, Guiyang 550081, Peoples R China
 -Univ Chinese Acad Sci, Beijing 100049, Peoples R China

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