Fossil black smoker yields oxygen isotopic composition of Neoproterozoic seawater

The evolution of the seawater oxygen isotopic composition (delta O-18) through geological time remains controversial. Yet, the past delta O-18(seawater) is key to assess past seawater temperatures, providing insights into past climate change and life evolution. Here we provide a new and unprecedentedly precise delta O-18 value of -1.33 +/- 0.98% for the Neoproterozoic bottom seawater supporting a constant oxygen isotope composition through time. We demonstrate that the Ait Ahmane ultramafic unit of the ca. 760 Ma Bou Azzer ophiolite (Morocco) host a fossil black smoker-type hydrothermal system. In this system we analyzed an untapped archive for the ocean oxygen isotopic composition consisting in pure magnetite veins directly precipitated from a Neoproterozoic seawater-derived fluid. Our results suggest that, while delta O-18(seawater) and submarine hydrothermal processes were likely similar to present day, Neoproterozoic oceans were 15-30 degrees C warmer on the eve of the Sturtian glaciation and the major life diversification that followed.

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Hodel F., Macouin M., Trindade R. I. F., Triantafyllou A., Ganne J., Chavagnac V., Berger J., Rospabé Mathieu, Destrigneville C., Carlut J., Ennih N., Agrinier P. (2018). Fossil black smoker yields oxygen isotopic composition of Neoproterozoic seawater. Nature Communications. 9. 1453 (7p.).,

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