Redox dynamics of later Cambrian oceans

Benjamin C. Gill, Tais W. Dahl, Emma U. Hammarlund, Matthew A. LeRoy, Gwyneth W. Gordon, Donald E. Canfield, Ariel D. Anbar, Timothy W. Lyons

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

13 Scopus citations


A growing body of evidence suggests that the deep oceans during the early Paleozoic Era were widely oxygen deficient, despite evidence for increased marine oxygenation during the Neoproterozoic. However, the temporal and geographic extents and dynamics of reducing marine conditions within these oceans are not well understood. Here, we investigate marine redox history during the Drumian through the earliest Jiangshanian International Stages of the Cambrian Period, using concentrations of redox-sensitive metals (vanadium, uranium, and molybdenum), iron speciation, and Mo isotope stratigraphy of the Alum Shale Formation of Scandinavia. These data suggest a major perturbation occurred in trace metal cycling during the later Cambrian Period that was linked to a transient change in marine redox conditions coincident with the well-known Steptoean Positive Isotope Excursion or SPICE. The δ98Mo measurements of the Alum shale show systematic variations during the interval that contains the SPICE which are broadly consistent with a transient expansion of sulfidic, reducing marine environments — indicating a significant exacerbation of an already-common condition during the Cambrian Period. Additionally, iron speciation data record a local transition from predominantly anoxic, ferruginous (Fe+2 containing) to anoxic, euxinic (sulfide containing) water column conditions near the initiation of the SPICE. Trace metal abundances, however, appear to decline well before the start of the SPICE, suggesting an earlier initiation of the global expansion of reducing environments. More broadly, our data and modeling support the notion that significant portions of the oceans remained oxygen deficient throughout the later portion of the Cambrian, and that these oceans were also prone to transient intervals of more reducing conditions similar to the Oceanic Anoxic Events of the Mesozoic.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number110623
JournalPalaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology
StatePublished - Nov 1 2021


  • Cambrian
  • Iron Speciation
  • Marine redox
  • Molybdenum isotopes
  • Trace metals

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oceanography
  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Earth-Surface Processes
  • Palaeontology


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