A sudden change from normal marine to extreme paleoenvironmental conditions occurred approximately 6 Ma ago in the Mediterranean Basin at the onset of the late Miocene Messinian salinity crisis, one of the most severe ecological crises in Earth history. Strong evaporation and tectonics led to hypersaline conditions, resulting in widespread deposition of evaporites and the apparent annihilation of the marine metazoan biosphere. In contrast to the prominent occurrence of evaporites elsewhere in the Mediterranean, evaporites did not form in the deeper part of some marginal basins at the onset of the crisis. The strata of the Pollenzo section (Piedmont Basin, NW Italy) studied here were deposited in such a paleogeographic setting. Instead of evaporites, a cyclic succession of organic-rich shales and carbonates formed during the early phase of the crisis in the study area. These sediments record a sharp increase in the contents of archaeal molecular fossils that are mostly represented by isoprenoidal dialkyl glycerol diethers (DGDs) and isoprenoidal glycerol dialkyl glycerol tetraethers (GDGTs). Such an expansion of archaeal biomass is best explained by a change of the archaeal communities at the onset of the Messinian salinity crisis. In particular, the appearance of molecular fossils of extremophilic archaea, mostly producing DGDs (archaeol and extended archaeol), suggests the emergence of halophilic archaea. At the same time, lipids of planktonic Thaumarchaeota, especially crenarchaeol, are present across the entire section, suggesting the local persistence of normal marine conditions. In agreement with the sudden appearance of tetrahymanol in the upper part of the section, the persistence of crenarchaeol indicates the establishment of water column stratification after the advent of the Messinian salinity crisis. To further investigate the Piedmont Basin paleoenvironmental conditions, we test the Archaeol Caldarchaeol Ecometric (ACE), a proxy developed for identifying high paleosalinities in waters and possibly in sediments. Despite high ACE values found for the Messinian salinity crisis samples, these values are in contrast with the absence of any lithological evidence for high salinities as well with other biomarkerindependent information, indicating low to normal seawater salinities. This apparent contradiction is likely explained by the complexity of the sources of archaeal lipids, especially of caldarchaeol and archaeol, limiting the utility of the ACE for the reconstruction of paleosalinities for Messinian strata.

An archeal biomarker record of paleoenvironmental change across the onset of the Messinian salinity crisis in the absence of evaporites

Marcello Natalicchio;Francesca Lozar;Giorgio Carnevale;Francesco Dela Pierre
2017

Abstract

A sudden change from normal marine to extreme paleoenvironmental conditions occurred approximately 6 Ma ago in the Mediterranean Basin at the onset of the late Miocene Messinian salinity crisis, one of the most severe ecological crises in Earth history. Strong evaporation and tectonics led to hypersaline conditions, resulting in widespread deposition of evaporites and the apparent annihilation of the marine metazoan biosphere. In contrast to the prominent occurrence of evaporites elsewhere in the Mediterranean, evaporites did not form in the deeper part of some marginal basins at the onset of the crisis. The strata of the Pollenzo section (Piedmont Basin, NW Italy) studied here were deposited in such a paleogeographic setting. Instead of evaporites, a cyclic succession of organic-rich shales and carbonates formed during the early phase of the crisis in the study area. These sediments record a sharp increase in the contents of archaeal molecular fossils that are mostly represented by isoprenoidal dialkyl glycerol diethers (DGDs) and isoprenoidal glycerol dialkyl glycerol tetraethers (GDGTs). Such an expansion of archaeal biomass is best explained by a change of the archaeal communities at the onset of the Messinian salinity crisis. In particular, the appearance of molecular fossils of extremophilic archaea, mostly producing DGDs (archaeol and extended archaeol), suggests the emergence of halophilic archaea. At the same time, lipids of planktonic Thaumarchaeota, especially crenarchaeol, are present across the entire section, suggesting the local persistence of normal marine conditions. In agreement with the sudden appearance of tetrahymanol in the upper part of the section, the persistence of crenarchaeol indicates the establishment of water column stratification after the advent of the Messinian salinity crisis. To further investigate the Piedmont Basin paleoenvironmental conditions, we test the Archaeol Caldarchaeol Ecometric (ACE), a proxy developed for identifying high paleosalinities in waters and possibly in sediments. Despite high ACE values found for the Messinian salinity crisis samples, these values are in contrast with the absence of any lithological evidence for high salinities as well with other biomarkerindependent information, indicating low to normal seawater salinities. This apparent contradiction is likely explained by the complexity of the sources of archaeal lipids, especially of caldarchaeol and archaeol, limiting the utility of the ACE for the reconstruction of paleosalinities for Messinian strata.
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Marcello Natalicchio, Daniel Birgel, Jorn Peckmann, Francesca Lozar, Giorgio Carnevale, Xiaolei Liu, Kai-Uwe Hinrichs, Francesco Dela Pierre
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Utilizza questo identificativo per citare o creare un link a questo documento: https://hdl.handle.net/2318/1651763
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