Marine Science Faculty Publications

Constraining Initial 230Th Activity in Incrementally Deposited, Biogenic Aragonite from the Bahamas

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The 230Th content of subsurface Bahamas seawater has been estimated from incrementally deposited aragonite skeletons of sclerosponges using U-series age models which imply syndepositional incorporation of 230Th. First order age models, assuming constant growth rate and zero initial 230Th activity, display an average surface age of 63 ± 18 y despite the fact that the surfaces of the organisms were known to be alive at the time collection in the 1990s. A knowledge of the initial 230Th activity is necessary to incorporate the surface age constraint into an age model. In the Bahamas, this approach estimates an initial 230Th/232Th activity ratio of 4.3 ± 1.1 when applied to several individuals of the Caribbean sclerosponge Ceratoporella nicholsoni. These results differ from the same approach applied to previous work on Jamaican sclerosponges accreting aragonite in an environment closer to crustal sources and with less carbonate substrate. We report new measurements of Jamaican sclerosponge suggesting initial activity ratios of 230Th/232Th of ∼1, albeit with a high amount of uncertainty, indicating a regional difference in initial thorium activities. The estimates of initial 230Th/232Th activity ratios in the Bahamas are similar to the dissolved ratio rather than the particulate ratio and can be explained by mixing of open ocean water and bank-top surface water, however no information regarding temporal changes in the amount of initial 230Th/232Th activity available for incorporation into biogenic aragonite can be constrained using this approach. Growth rates do not change after correction for initial thorium and they display an inverse relationship with depth. Although this paper deals uniquely with sclerosponge aragonite, it is likely that the approach can be used on any incrementally deposited biogenic aragonite, provided information is known a priori about the first order growth model and there is evidence that initial thorium incorporation is representative of ambient environment rather than individual physiology.

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Geochimica et Cosmochimica Acta, v. 71, issue 16, p. 4025-4035