Normal alkanes (n-C13n-C36), isoprenoid hydrocarbons (i-C15, i-C16, i-C18, i-C19, and i-C20) triterpanes (C27C32), and (C27C29) are present in low concentrations offshore Antarctica in near-surface, Quaternary sediment of the Wilkes Land continental margin and of the western Ross Sea. The distributions of these hydrocarbons are interpreted relative to possible sources and processes. The hydrocarbons appear to be mixtures of primary and recycled material from marine and terrigenous sources. The n-alkanes are most abundant and are characterized by two distinct populations, one of probable marine origin and the other likely from terrigenous, vascular plant sources. Because the continent of Antarctica today is devoid of higher plants, the plant-derived hydrocarbons in these offshore sediments probably came from wind-blown material and recycled Antarctic sediment that contains land-plant remains from an earlier period of time. Isoprenoid hydrocarbons are partially recycled and mainly of marine origin; the dominance of pristane over phytane suggests oxic paleoenvironmental conditions. Both modern and ancient triterpanes and steranes are present, and the distribution of these indicates a mixture of primary and recycled bacterial, algal, and possible higher-plant materials. Although the sampled sediments were deposited during the Quaternary, they apparently contain a significant component of hydrocarbons of pre-Quaternary age. ?? 1987.
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Multiple sources of alkanes in Quaternary oceanic sediment of Antarctica