Volume 5, Issue 6 p. 963-975
Special Section: The Younger Dryas Event

Evidence for seasonal low-salinity surface waters in the Gulf of Mexico over the last 16,000 years

First published: December 1990
Citations: 40


Oxygen isotopic analyses of individual Orbulina universa from Orca Basin core EN32-PC6 document the presence of low salinity surface waters in the northern Gulf of Mexico over the past 16 kyr. Isotopic data from an interval immediately following the Younger Dryas Event indicate the rapid decrease in δ18O values at the conclusion of the Younger Dryas was due to a year-round return of meltwater to the Gulf of Mexico. Data indicate periodic or seasonal low-salinity waters existed over the region of the Orca Basin prior to the initiation of the meltwater spike. Estimates suggest O. universa grew its shell in salinities at least 4.5 ‰ below ambient. Since O. universa may have calcified deep in the mixed layer during periods of low salinity, surface salinities could have been even lower. Comparison of the average of individual O. universa oxygen isotopic values with data from multiple shell samples of white Gs. ruber from the same core samples demonstrates that the two species record similar values during the late Holocene. In contrast, O. universa records lower oxygen isotopic values during the late glacial/deglacial intervals, possibly due to differences in seasonal distribution or shell ontogeny between the two species.