Searching for an oxygenation event in the fossiliferous Ediacaran of northwestern Canada

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Searching for an oxygenation event in the fossiliferous Ediacaran of northwestern Canada

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Title: Searching for an oxygenation event in the fossiliferous Ediacaran of northwestern Canada
Author: Johnston, David T; Poulton, S.W.; Tosca, N.J.; O'Brien, T.; Halverson, G.P.; Schrag, Daniel P.; Macdonald, Francis Alexander

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Citation: Johnston, D.T., S.W. Poulton, N.J. Tosca, T. O’Brien, G.P. Halverson, D.P. Schrag, and F.A. Macdonald. 2013. “Searching for an Oxygenation Event in the Fossiliferous Ediacaran of Northwestern Canada.” Chemical Geology 362 (December): 273–286. doi:10.1016/j.chemgeo.2013.08.046.
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Abstract: Late Neoproterozoic (Ediacaran) strata from northwestern Canada provide a thick and rich sedimentological record, preserving intercalated carbonates and shale extending from the ~ 635 million year old Marinoan glacial deposits up through the ~ 541 million year old Precambrian–Cambrian boundary. This region also holds one of the classic localities for the study of early animal life, with the ensuing suggestion that this temporal interval captures a gross change in the O2 content of the Earth's atmosphere. To test this hypothesis and bring records of northwestern Canada into line with other Ediacaran, fossil-bearing basins, we provide a detailed geochemical reconstruction from the Wernecke Mountains of the Yukon. Where possible, we also extend these records to the Ogilvie Mountains to the west and previously published data from the Mackenzie Mountains to the east.
Our work in the Wernecke Mountains is set against a composite δ13C record for carbonate that preserves three distinct Ediacaran isotope excursions, the lowermost of which (preserved in the Gametrail Formation) is a putative Shuram excursion equivalent. What emerges from a multi-proxy (Fe speciation, sulfur isotopes, major and trace element analyses) reconstruction is a picture of a persistently anoxic and ferruginous Ediacaran ocean. Notably absent is geochemical evidence for a prominent oxygenation event, an expectation given the appearance of animals and large swings in δ13C. The new insight gained through these data challenges the idea of an Ediacaran jump in atmospheric oxygen, which in turn muddles the link between animal evolution and local geochemical environments.
Published Version: doi:10.1016/j.chemgeo.2013.08.046
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