Reconstructing Past Seawater Mg/Ca and Sr/Ca from Mid-Ocean Ridge Flank Calcium Carbonate Veins

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Science  26 Feb 2010:
Vol. 327, Issue 5969, pp. 1114-1117
DOI: 10.1126/science.1182252

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Proxies for past seawater chemistry, such as Mg/Ca and Sr/Ca ratios, provide a record of the dynamic exchanges of elements between the solid Earth, the atmosphere, and the hydrosphere and the evolving influence of life. We estimated past oceanic Mg/Ca and Sr/Ca ratios from suites of 1.6- to 170-million-year-old calcium carbonate veins that had precipitated from seawater-derived fluids in ocean ridge flank basalts. Our data indicate that before the Neogene, oceanic Mg/Ca and Sr/Ca ratios were lower than in the modern ocean. Decreased ocean spreading since the Cretaceous and the resulting slow reduction in ocean crustal hydrothermal exchange throughout the early Tertiary may explain the recent rise in these ratios.

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