High-resolution Campanian–Maastrichtian carbon and oxygen stable isotopes of bulk-rock and skeletal components: palaeoceanographic and palaeoenvironmental implications for the Boreal shelf sea

Markus Wilmsen, Birgit Niebuhr


A high-resolution latest Early Campanian to Early Maastrichtian carbon and oxygen stable isotope record from the northern German Boreal shelf sea based on 537 analyses of co-occurring belemnites, brachiopods, inoceramids, oysters, and bulk rock samples is presented. All samples are precisely related to their stratigraphic, systematic and facies backgrounds and form an integrated, nearly 10-myr-long dataset with considerable palaeoenvironmental and palaeoceanographical implications. Petrographic studies indicate that low-magnesium calcitic coccoliths and calcispheres (i.e., planktic carbonate) predominate the bulk-rock data (marl-limestone rhythmites and chalks), thus representing a sea-surface water signal, and that only minor diagenetic alteration of the carbonate muds took place. Based on TL and CL microscopy, the investigated belemnites are extraordinarily well preserved, which may in part be explained by their early diagenetic surficial silicification (container effect), while the other  macroinvertebrate groups are all less well preserved. The (plankton-dominated) d13C values of the marl-limestone rhythmites and chalks (+1.1 to +2.5 ‰), recording a surface water signal, compare well with the d13C data of inoceramids while d13Cbrach. values (+1.5 to +3.0 ‰) are heavier than the bulk rock data. The large variation in the d13Cbel. (-0.1 to +3.6 ‰) is attributed to isotopic disequilibrium of the biogenic carbonate formed by the belemnite animal. The bulk rock d18O values show a remarkable low scatter, supporting petrographic observation of only minor diagenetic stabilisation/cementation, and can be approximated with northern German shelf sea-surface temperatures of ca. 20°C for the Late Campanian (ca. -2 ‰ d18O), being slightly cooler during the Early Maastrichtian. The d18O values of the belemnite rostra are even less variable and quite rich in heavier 18O (-0.7 to +0.6 with a mean of -0.1 ‰ d18Obel.) in comparison to bulk rock and other skeletal components. Based on their excellent microstructural preservation and non-luminescence, we conclude that the belemnite rostra are diagenetically unaltered and have preserved the primary d18O signal of ambient seawater (12 ± 2°C). In the absence of any indication for migration from cooler water masses and evidence for authochtonous populations we assume that the belemnites of the genera Belemnitella and Belemnella lived as nektobenthos near the sea-floor and thus record the temperature of the bottom mixed layer of the seasonally weakly stratified north German shelf sea at water depths of 100 to 150 m; the temperature gradient was thus 12.5–18.75 m/1°C. A conspicuous latest Campanian cooling event is evident in both sea-surface and bottom-water temperatures. The d18O values of nearly all investigated benthic fossils lie between the isotope values of pristine belemnites and bulk rock, and, therefore, should be used for  palaeotemperature reconstructions only with great care.


Cretaceous; Northern Germany; Stable isotopes; Low-magnesium calcite; Palaeoceanography.

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