New publication: Effect of a Jurassic oceanic anoxic event on belemnite ecology and evolution

Clemens Vinzenz Ullmanna, Nicolas Thibault, Micha Ruhl, Stephen P. Hesselbo and Christoph Korte (2014) Effect of a Jurassic oceanic anoxic event on belemnite ecology and evolution PNAS doi: 10.1073/pnas.1320156111


The Toarcian oceanic anoxic event (T-OAE; ∼183 million y ago) is possibly the most extreme episode of widespread ocean oxygen deficiency in the Phanerozoic, coinciding with rapid atmospheric pCO2 increase and significant loss of biodiversity in marine faunas. The event is a unique past tipping point in the Earth system, where rapid and massive release of isotopically light carbon led to a major perturbation in the global carbon cycle as recorded in organic and inorganic C isotope records. Modern marine ecosystems are projected to experience major loss in biodiversity in response to enhanced ocean anoxia driven by anthropogenic release of greenhouse gases. Potential consequences of this anthropogenic forcing can be approximated by studying analog environmental perturbations in the past such as the T-OAE. Here we present to our knowledge the first organic carbon isotope record derived from the organic matrix in the calcite rostra of early Toarcian belemnites. We combine both organic and calcite carbon isotope analyses of individual specimens of these marine predators to obtain a refined reconstruction of the early Toarcian global exogenic carbon cycle perturbation and belemnite paleoecology. The organic carbon isotope data combined with measurements of oxygen isotope values from the same specimens allow for a more robust interpretation of the interplay between the global carbon cycle perturbation, environmental change, and biotic response during the T-OAE. We infer that belemnites adapted to environmental change by shifting their habitat from cold bottom waters to warm surface waters in response to expanded seafloor anoxia.