Late Holocene seasonal temperature variability of the western Scottish shelf (St Kilda) recorded in fossil shells of the bivalve Glycymeris glycymeris

The North Atlantic Ocean and adjacent shelf seas play a crucial role in global climate. To better constrain long-term natural variability and marine-terrestrial linkages in this region, a network of highly resolved marine archives from the open ocean and continental shelves is needed. In recent decades, bivalve sclerochronology has emerged as a field providing such records from the mid- to high latitudes. In May 2014, dead valves and young live specimens of the bivalve Glycymeris glycymeris were collected at St Kilda, Scotland. A floating chronology spanning 187 years was constructed with fossil shells and radiocarbon dated to 3910–3340 cal yr before present (BP), with a probability density cluster at ca. 3700–3500 cal yr BP. Sub-annual δ18O data were obtained from five fossil and three modern specimens and showed a strong seasonal signal in both time intervals. The growth season of G. glycymeris at this location today lasts from May to October, with most growth occurring before the temperature peak in August. Thus, the modern specimens and the fossil chronology represent late-spring and summer sea surface temperatures (SST). The annual temperature range was 4.4 °C in the fossil shells, which is similar to the range observed today (3.8 °C). Average SSTs reconstructed from the fossil shells were 1 °C cooler than in 2003–2013 CE and similar to the early 20th century CE. The radiocarbon age of the floating chronology coincides with a climatic shift to wetter conditions on the British Isles and with a cold interval observed in palaeoceanographic records from south of Iceland. However, our data do not provide evidence of a cold interval on the Scottish shelf. The similarity in growth season and temperature range between the fossil and modern specimens are attributed to similar boundary conditions in the fourth millennium BP compared to today.


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Authors: Alexandroff, Stella J., Butler, Paul G., Hollyman, Philip R. ORCIDORCID record for Philip R. Hollyman, Schöne, Bernd R., Scourse, James D.

On this site: Philip Hollyman
15 January, 2021
Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology / 562
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