Radiocarbon dating of planktonic foraminifer shells: A cautionary tale

TitleRadiocarbon dating of planktonic foraminifer shells: A cautionary tale
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2014
AuthorsMekik, F
Date PublishedJAN
Type of ArticleArticle

Sedimentation rate, bioturbation, winnowing, and calcite dissolution produce significant radiocarbon age offsets among multiple species of coexisting planktonic foraminifers and pteropod fragments. We compare the radiocarbon age of foraminifer species and pteropod fragments with estimates of percent calcite dissolved made with a sedimentary proxy (Globorotalia menardii fragmentation index-MFI) to delineate the effect of dissolution on radiocarbon age of foraminifers. Data from two core top transects on the Rio Grande Rise (RIO) and Ontong Java Plateau (OJP) and from down core sediments of varying sedimentation rates in the tropical Pacific (ME-27, MD98 2177, and MW91-9 56GGC) reveal that sediments with the greatest accumulation rates produce the least age offsets among coexisting species. Age offsets among coexisting foraminifers are about 3500 years on RIO, and 1000 years on OJP. Two core tops from RIO yield an age of the Last Glacial Maximum possibly due to mass displacement of younger sediments downslope. Foraminifer age increases with increasing dissolution and there is a consistent pattern of older foraminifer fragments coexisting with younger whole shells of the same species. The only exception is sediments which have experienced high dissolution where fragments are younger than whole shells. The age offset between fragments of G. menardii and its coexisting whole shells does not exceed the age offset among other coexisting foraminifer species in the same core tops.