High-Resolution Stratigraphy with Strontium Isotopes

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Science  22 Feb 1985:
Vol. 227, Issue 4689, pp. 938-941
DOI: 10.1126/science.227.4689.938


The isotopic ratio of strontium-87 to strontium-86 shows no detectable variation in present-day ocean water but changes slowly over millions of years. The strontium contained in carbonate shells of marine organisms records the ratio of strontium-87 to strontium-86 of the oceans at the time that the shells form. Sedimentary rocks composed of accumulated fossil carbonate shells can be dated and correlated with the use of high precision measurements of the ratio of strontium-87 to strontium-86 with a resolution that is similar to that of other techniques used in age correlation. This method may prove valuable for many geological, paleontological, paleooceanographic, and geochemical problems.