U-series ages of solitary corals from the California coast by mass spectrometry

Geochimica et Cosmochimica Acta

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The purpose of this study is to evaluate the feasibility of dating fossil solitary corals from Pleistocene marine strandlines outside tropical latitudes using the recently developed high sensitivity, high-precision U-series technique based on thermal-ionization mass-spectrometry (TIMS). The TIMS technique is much more efficient than conventional a spectrometry and, as a result, multiple samples of an individual coral skeleton, or different specimens from the same bed can be analyzed. Detached and well-rounded fossil specimens of the solitary coral Balanophyllia elegans were collected from relict littoral deposits on emergent marine terraces along the California coast at Cayucos terrace (elevation 8 m, previously dated at 124 and 117 Ky by ?? counting), Shell Beach terrace (elevation about 25 m, previously undated), Nestor terrace, San Diego (elevation 23 m, previously dated at 131 to 109 Ky ), Bird Rock terrace, San Diego ( elevation 8 m, previously dated at 81 Ky ). Attached living specimens were collected from the intertidal zone on the modern terrace at Moss Beach. Concentrations of 232Th in both living and fossil specimens are much higher than in reef-building corals (12 to 624 pmol/g vs. 0.1 to 1.6 pmol/g, respectively). However, because 230Th/232Th in Balanophyllia elegans are very low (2.22 ?? 10-3 to 4.33 ?? 10-4), the high 232Th concentrations have negligible effect on the 230Th-234U dates. The high 232Th concentration in the living specimen (33.1 pmol/g) indicates that a significant amount of 232Th is incorporated in the aragonitic skeleton during growth, or attached to clay-sized silicates trapped in the skeletal material. The calculated initial 234U activities in the fossil specimens of Balanophyllia elegans are higher than the 234U activity in modern seawater or in the modern specimen. The higher initial activities could possibly reflect the influx of 234U-enriched continental water into Pleistocene coastal waters, or it could reflect minor diagenetic alteration, a persistent and fundamental problem in dating all corals. Samples from a compound specimen from the Cayucos terrace were subjected to different preparation procedures. Samples prepared by a standard acid washing procedure yielded 230Th-234U ages of 125, 123, and 122 Ky, whereas samples prepared by an abbreviated procedure without acid washing yield significantly lower ages of 113 and 112 Ky. Two other specimens from the same bed yielded 230Th-234U ages of 118 and 115 Ky. Also, two specimens from a stratigraphically higher bed yielded ages of 120 and 117 Ky, and three specimens from a lower bed yield ages of 115, 113, and 101 Ky. Nine of the twelve ages of the treated samples from the Cayucos terrace range from 125 to 113 Ky. However, the ages do not follow the stratigraphie order. Two possible interpretations are ( 1 ) the age of the terrace deposit is 125 Ky and all younger ages reflect variable diagenetic alteration or (2) the age of the terrace is 125 to 113 Ky and the ages reflect sediment reworking over a period of 12 Ky. Three specimens from a single bed on the Shell Beach terrace yield ages of 126, 122, and 121 Ky, similar to the older ages from Cayucos. The ages of solitary corals from the Cayucos and Shell Beach terraces are similar to ages of reef-building corals from terraces at numerous tropical localities. These are correlated with the last interglacial sea-level highstand, which probably stood 2 to 10 m above present sea level. The youngest ages and present elevations of the Cayucos and Shell Beach terraces yield tectonic uplift rates of 0.01 and 0.15 m/Ky, respectively, assuming the original elevation of each terrace was 7 m. Four specimens from the basal gravel on the Nestor terrace yielded ages of 145, 143, 137, and 133 Ky. The three oldest ages, however, are older than that associated with the last interglacial. The possible explanations for these older ages are ( 1 ) diagenic alteration or ( 2 ) the Nestor terrace deposits reflect in s

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U-series ages of solitary corals from the California coast by mass spectrometry
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Geochimica et Cosmochimica Acta
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Geochimica et Cosmochimica Acta
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