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  • Perturbation at the sea floor during the Paleocene–Eocene T

    Perturbation at the sea floor during the Paleocene–Eocene Thermal Maximum

    Evidence from benthic foraminifera at Contessa Road, Italy


    Detailed analyses of the benthic foraminiferal assemblages extracted with the cold acetolyse method together with high resolution geochemical and mineralogical investigations across the Paleocene/Eocene (P/E) boundary of the classical succession at Contessa Road (western Tethys), allowed to recognize and document the Paleocene–Eocene Thermal Maximum (PETM) interval, the position of the Benthic Extinction Event (BEE) and the early recovery of benthic faunas in the aftermath of benthic foraminiferal extinction.

    The stratigraphical interval spanning the P/E boundary consists of dominantly pelagic limestones and two prominent marly beds. Benthic foraminifera indicate that these sediments were deposited at lower bathyal depth, not deeper than 1000–1500 m. The Carbon Isotope Excursion (CIE) interval is characterized by high barite abundance with a peak at the base of the same stratigraphic interval, indicating a complete, although condensed record of the early CIE. A succession of events and changes in the taxonomic structure of benthic foraminifera has been recognized that may be of use for supra-regional stratigraphic correlation across the P/E boundary interval. The composition of the benthic foraminiferal assemblages, dominated by infaunal taxa, indicates mesotrophic and changing conditions on the sea floor during the last ~ 45 kyr of the Paleocene. The BEE occurs at the base of the CIE within the lower marly bed and it is recorded by the extinction of several deep-water cosmopolitan taxa. Then, the lysocline/CCD rose and severe carbonate dissolution occurred. Preservation deteriorated, the faunal density and simple diversity dropped to minimum values and a peak of Glomospira spp. has been observed. Stress-tolerant and opportunistic groups, represented mainly by bi-and triserial taxa, dominate the low-diversity post-extinction assemblages, indicating a benthic foraminiferal recovery under environmental unstable conditions, probably within a context of sustained food transfer to the bottom.

    A three-phase pattern of faunal recovery is recognizable. At first the lysocline/CCD started to descend and then recovered. Small-sized “Bulimina”, Oridorsalis umbonatus, and Tappanina selmensis rapidly repopulated the severely stressed environment. Later on, Siphogenerinoides brevispinosa massively returns, dominating the assemblage together with other buliminids, Nuttallides truempyi, and Anomalinoides sp.1. Finally, a marked drop in abundance of S. brevispinosa is followed by a bloom of the opportunistic and recolonizer agglutinated Pseudobolivina that, for the first time, is recorded within the main CIE. A second interval of dissolution, but less severe than the previous one, has been recognized within the upper marly bed (uppermost part of the main CIE interval) and it is interpreted as a renewed, less pronounced shoaling of the lysocline/CCD that interrupted the recovery of benthic faunas. This further rise likely represents a response to persistent instability of ocean geochemistry in this sector of the Tethys before the end of the CIE. In the CIE recovery and post CIE intervals, the composition of the benthic foraminiferal assemblages suggests mesotrophic and unstable conditions at the sea floor. According to the geochemical proxy for redox conditions, the deposition of the PETM sediments at Contessa Road occurred in well-oxygenated waters, leading out a widespread oxygen depletion as major cause of the BEE. Changing oceanic productivity, carbonate corrosivity and global warming appear to have played a much more important role in the major benthic foraminiferal extinction at the P/E boundary.

    Plate I. Fig. 1 Anomalinoides rubiginosus (Cushman, 1926). CR/03 30.06-30.07, x75. Fig. 2 Anomalinoides cf. chiranus (Cushman and Stone, 1947). CR/03 30.12-30.13, x75. Fig. 3 Anomalinoides sp.1, ventral view. CR/03 30.38-30-30.39, x75. Fig. 4 Anomalinoides sp.1, dorsal view. CR/03 30.39-30.40, x75. Fig. 5 Aragonia aragonensis (Nuttall, 1930). CR/03 30.44-30.45, x75. Fig. 6 Aragonia velascoensis (Cushman, 1925). CR/03 30.20-30.21, x50. Fig. 7 Bulimina tuxpamensis Cole, 1928. CR/03 30.57-30.58, x75. Fig. 8 Bulimina midwayensis Cushman and Parker, 1936. CR/03 30.39-30.40, x75. Fig. 9 Cibicidoides hyphalus (Fisher, 1969). CR/03 30.12-30.13, x75. Fig. 10 Cibicidoides velascoensis (Cushman, 1925). CR/03 30.12-30.13, x75. Fig. 11 Cibicidoides praemundulus Berggren and Miller, 1986. CR/03 30.26-30.30, x50. Fig. 12 Clavulinoides trilatera (Cushman, 1926). CR/03 30.30-30.34, x60. Fig. 13Coryphostoma midwayensis (Cushman, 1936). CR/03 30.00-30.01, x150. Fig. 14 Gavelinella beccariiformis (White, 1928). CR/03 30.26-30.30, x75. Fig. 15 Globocassidulina subglobosa (Brady, 1881). CR/03 30.39-30.40, x150.


    Luca Giusberti , Rodolfo Coccioni b, Mario Sprovieri c, Fabio Tateo d

    a Dipartimento di Geoscienze, Padova University, Via Giotto 1, I-35137 Padova, Italy

    b Dipartimento di Scienze dell'Uomo, dell'Ambiente e della Natura, Università degli Studi di Urbino “Carlo Bo,” Campus Scientifico, Località Crocicchia, 61029 Urbino, Italy

    c Istituto Ambiente Marino Costiero, Consiglio Nazionale delle Ricerche (CNR), Calata Porta di Massa (Interno Porto di Napoli), 80133 Naples, Italy

    d Istituto di Geoscienze e Georisorse, Consiglio Nazionale delle Ricerche (CNR) Padova, c/o Dipartimento di Geoscienze, Università di Padova, Via Giotto 1, I-35137 Padova, Italy

    Pubblicato in Marine Micropaleontology 70 (2009) 102–119

    Per gentile concessione del dottor Luca Giusberti, Dipartimento di Geoscienze di Padova


    (16/12/2009 Tg0-positivo)