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

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Science  04 Feb 2010:
DOI: 10.1126/science.1182252


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, atmosphere and hydrosphere, and the evolving influence of life. Here, we estimate past oceanic Mg/Ca and Sr/Ca ratios from suites of 1.6 to 170-million-year-old calcium carbonate veins precipitated from seawater-derived fluids in ocean ridge flank basalts. Our data indicate that prior to the Neogene, oceanic Mg/Ca and Sr/Ca 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.