Research Article

A Chronology of Paleozoic Sea-Level Changes

Science  03 Oct 2008:
Vol. 322, Issue 5898, pp. 64-68
DOI: 10.1126/science.1161648

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Abstract

Sea levels have been determined for most of the Paleozoic Era (542 to 251 million years ago), but an integrated history of sea levels has remained unrealized. We reconstructed a history of sea-level fluctuations for the entire Paleozoic by using stratigraphic sections from pericratonic and cratonic basins. Evaluation of the timing and amplitude of individual sea-level events reveals that the magnitude of change is the most problematic to estimate accurately. The long-term sea level shows a gradual rise through the Cambrian, reaching a zenith in the Late Ordovician, then a short-lived but prominent withdrawal in response to Hirnantian glaciation. Subsequent but decreasingly substantial eustatic highs occurred in the mid-Silurian, near the Middle/Late Devonian boundary, and in the latest Carboniferous. Eustatic lows are recorded in the early Devonian, near the Mississippian/Pennsylvanian boundary, and in the Late Permian. One hundred and seventy-two eustatic events are documented for the Paleozoic, varying in magnitude from a few tens of meters to ∼125 meters.

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