Late Paleozoic oxygenation of marine environments supported by dolomite U-Pb dating

Michal Ben-Israel, Robert M. Holder, Lyle L. Nelson, Emily F. Smith, Andrew R.C. Kylander-Clark, Uri Ryb*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Understanding causal relationships between evolution and ocean oxygenation hinges on reliable reconstructions of marine oxygen levels, typically from redox-sensitive geochemical proxies. Here, we develop a proxy, using dolomite U–Pb geochronology, to reconstruct seawater U/Pb ratios. Dolomite samples consistently give U–Pb dates and initial 207Pb/206Pb ratios lower than expected from their stratigraphic ages. These observations are explained by resetting of the U–Pb system long after deposition; the magnitude of deviations from expected initial 207Pb/206Pb are a function of the redox-sensitive U/Pb ratios during deposition. Reconstructed initial U/Pb ratios increased notably in the late-Paleozoic, reflecting an increase in oxygenation of marine environments at that time. This timeline is consistent with documented shifts in some other redox proxies and supports evolution-driven mechanisms for the oxygenation of late-Paleozoic marine environments, as well as suggestions that early animals thrived in oceans that on long time scales were oxygen-limited compared to today.

Original languageAmerican English
Article number2892
JournalNature Communications
Issue number1
StatePublished - Dec 2024

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