Oldest isotopically characterized fish otoliths provide insight to Jurassic continental climate of Europe

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Large, shallow, epeiric seas and adjacent lagoons such as those described herein likely played a significant role in moderating Jurassic coastal and continental climate. Jurassic (Bathonian) ocean surface temperatures in Scotland have been calculated from δ18O(CaCO3) values of a suite of the oldest well-preserved fish otoliths analyzed to date. Otolith δ18O values range from −4.7‰ to −1.9‰ (Vienna Peedee belemnite, VPDB), while δ13C(CaCO3) values vary from −5.4‰ to +1.5‰ (VPDB), representing the oldest stable isotopic record of paleodiet, paleoecology, and fish migration to date. Using a global ocean δ18O(H2O) value of −1.0‰ (Vienna standard mean ocean water, VSMOW) for an ice-free Jurassic, fish species that migrated from estuarine to open marine water record time-averaged temperatures of 23 °C. Estuarine fish, assuming a similar temperature, record variation in δ18O(H2O) values from −3.7‰ to −2.0‰ (VSMOW). That significant mixing of fresh water and seawater occurred in the Jurassic in Scotland is in general agreement with data presented by others (molluscan fauna, lithostratigraphy, paleogeography, and paleocirculation models). The δ18O values and temperatures derived in this study correspond to the meteorologic and hydrologic parameters of a mid-latitude maritime climate with low seasonality, a mean temperature of 23 °C, and abundant precipitation and humidity. The δ18O(H2O) values calculated from estuarine fish indicate that rainfall must have a δ18O(H2O) value lower than −3.7‰ (VSMOW). Values of δ18O and δ13C suggest an environment hydrologically similar to that observed in the Everglades of south Florida or the estuaries of south Texas, both notable fish nurseries today. However, sea-surface temperatures were lower than those of modern Florida or Texas as evidenced by reduced evaporative enrichment of δ18O(H2O) values.

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