The timing of sea-level high-stands during Marine Isotope Stages 7.5 and 9: Constraints from the uranium-series dating of fossil corals from Henderson Island


Direct dating of fossil coral reefs using the U-series chronometer provides an important independent test of the Milankovitch orbital forcing theory of climate change. However, well-dated fossil corals pre-dating the last interglacial period (>130 thousand years ago; ka) are scarce due to, (1) a lack of sampling localities, (2) insufficient analytical precision in U-series dating methods, and (3) diagenesis which acts to violate the assumption of closed-system U-series isotopic decay in fossil corals. Here we present 50 new high-precision U-series age determinations for fossil corals from Henderson Island, an emergent coral atoll in the central South Pacific. U-series age determinations associated with the Marine Isotope Stage (MIS) 9 interglacial and MIS 7.5 interstadial periods are reported. The fossil corals show relatively little open-system U-series behaviour in comparison to other localities with fossil coral reefs formed prior to the last glacial cycle, however, open-system U-series behaviour is still evident in most of the dated corals. In particular, percent-level shifts in the [230Th/238U]act composition are observed, leading to conventional U-series ages that are significantly younger or older than the true sample age. This open-system U-series behaviour is not accounted for by any of the open-system U-series models, indicating that new models should be derived. The new U-series ages reported here support and extend earlier findings reported in Stirling et al. (2001), providing evidence of prolific coral reef development on Henderson Island at 320 ka, most likely correlated with MIS 9.3, and subsequent reef development at 307 ka during MIS 9.1, while relative sea-level was potentially 20 m lower than during MIS 9.3. The U-series ages for additional well-preserved fossil corals are suggestive of minor reef development on Henderson Island during MIS 7.5 (245–230 ka) at 240.3 ± 0.8 and 234.7 ± 1.3 ka. All U-series observations are consistent with the Milankovitch theory of climate change, in terms of the timing of onset and termination of the dated interglacial and interstadial periods. The best preserved samples also suggest that the oceanic 234U/238U during MIS 9 and MIS 7.5 was within five permil of the modern open ocean composition. [Retrieved from publisher's website:]



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