Striking cyclic interbeds of laminated dark-olive to black marlstone and bioturbated white to light-gray limestone of Neocomian (Early Cretaceous) age have been recovered at Deep Sea Drilling Project (DSDP) and Ocean Drilling Project (ODP) sites in the North Atlantic. These Neocomian sequences are equivalent to the Maiolica Formation that outcrops in the Tethyan regions of the Mediterranean and to thick limestone sequences of the Vocontian Trough of France. This lithologic unit marks the widespread deposition of biogenic carbonate over much of the North Atlantic and Tethyan seafloor during a time of overall low sealevel and a deep carbonate compensation depth. The dark clay-rich interbeds typically are rich in organic carbon (OC) with up to 5.5% OC in sequences in the eastern North Atlantic. These eastern North Atlantic sequences off northwest Africa, contain more abundant and better preserved hydrogen-rich, algal organic matter (type II kerogen) relative to the western North Atlantic, probably in response to coastal upwelling induced by an eastern boundary current in the young North Atlantic Ocean. The more abundant algal organic matter in sequences in the eastern North Atlantic is also expressed in the isotopic composition of the carbon in that organic matter. In contrast, organic matter in Neocomian sequences in the western North Atlantic along the continental margin of North America has geochemical and optical characteristics of herbaceous, woody, hydrogen-poor, humic, type III kerogen. The inorganic geochemical characteristics of the dark clay-rich (<60% CaCO3) interbeds in Neocomian sequences in the North American Basin and the Cape Verde Basin off northwest Africa suggest that most of the detrital clastic material was derived from deep-sea fans off North America and Morocco during relatively wet intervals to dilute pelagic biogenic carbonate. Inorganic geochemical characteristics of the clastic material in the bioturbated, white, carbonate-rich (>80% CaCO3) interbeds in both the eastern and western basins of the North Atlantic suggest that they contain minor amounts of relatively unweathered eolian dust derived from northwest Africa during dry intervals.
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Sensitivity of the North Atlantic Basin to cyclic climatic forcing during the early Cretaceous