Aragonite pteropod abundance and preservation records from the Maldives, equatorial Indian Ocean: inferences on past oceanic carbonate saturation and dissolution events


• 1.2 Myr record of pteropod abundance/preservation variations from the Maldives

• Periods of enhanced ventilation during MIS 8, 3, 2 and MIS 14-13, 6-5 transitions

• MBDI marked by very poor preservation of pteropods during MIS 13 to 11

• Seawater carbonate chemistry plays a role in shell calcification.

• Glacial periods, MIS 16, 14, 6, 4, 2 are marked by larger and pristine shells.


During the International Ocean Discovery Program (IODP) Expedition 359, a long continuous carbonate-rich sequence was recovered from the Inner Sea of Maldives. We investigated pteropod proxies (absolute abundance of pteropods species, total pteropods, epipelagic to mesopelagic ratio, fragmentation ratio, Limacina Dissolution Index (LDX), mean shell size variations of L. inflata) from Sites U1467 (water depth: 487 m) and U1468 (water depth: 521 m) to understand both surface and sub-surface paleoceanographic changes in the equatorial Indian Ocean and to improve our understanding of the factors responsible for pteropod preservation on longer timescales. A total of 15 species of pteropods were identified, and their downcore variations were documented from the core top to 707.49 mbsf in U1467 and from 447.4 to 846.92 mbsf in U1468. At the Site U1467, pteropod shells show high abundances/preservation up to a depth of 45 mbsf (~1.2 Ma), which is consistent with the presence of aragonite content in sediments (with the top 50 m bearing high aragonite content). Beyond 45 mbsf, only fragmented pteropod shells were seen down to 50 mbsf (corresponding to 1.5 Ma) followed by a total absence of pteropod shells and fragments from 50 mbsf (~1.5 Ma) to the end of the core at 846.92 mbsf (~24 Ma). A decrease in the SO42ˉconcentration and alkalinity in the interstitial fluid geochemistry is seen at these depths. The presence of dolomite content below 50 mbsf also indicates the alteration of aragonite into dolomite. Analyses of the carbonate preservation proxies reveal that the pteropods exhibit considerable fluctuation in abundance/preservation during the last 1.2 Myr. A good to moderate preservation (LDX: 2 to 3) is seen which correlates well with the fragmentation ratio but with an inverse relation with calcification rate. The proxies for in-life pteropod shell dissolution (average size of L. inflata and LDX) indicate that glacial periods (MIS 16, 14, 6, 4 and 2) have shown no signs of dissolution pointing better calcification under aragonite-saturated water column which is in good correlation with reduced atmospheric CO₂ concentration. Epipelagic/mesopelagic ratio indicates that the water column exhibited enhanced ventilation and mixing during glacial to interglacial periods, but intervals of intense stratification, a sign of poor ventilation or weakened circulation, was prevalent beyond MIS 14. The longest interval of poorest preservation was marked during MIS 11 and 13, which corresponds to the ‘Mid-Brunhes Dissolution Interval (MBDI).’ On a longer time scale, the abundances/preservation of pteropods in the Maldives seems to be controlled by changes in the seawater chemistry associated with monsoon productivity, water column ventilation, and atmospheric CO2 concentration.

Sreevidya E., Sijinkumar A. V. & Nath B. N., 2019. Aragonite pteropod abundance and preservation records from the Maldives, equatorial Indian Ocean: inferences on past oceanic carbonate saturation and dissolution events. Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology 534: 109313. doi: 10.1016/j.palaeo.2019.109313. Article (subscription required).

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