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Geochronological and geochemical constraints on the origin of highly 13Ccarb-depleted calcite in basal Ediacaran cap carbonate

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  04 April 2022

Zhongwu Lan*
State Key Laboratory of Lithospheric Evolution, Institute of Geology and Geophysics, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing100029, China State Key Laboratory of Palaeobiology and Stratigraphy, Nanjing Institute of Geology and Palaeontology, Chinese Academy of Science, Nanjing210008, Jiangsu, China State Key Laboratory of Geological Processes and Mineral Resources, China University of Geosciences, Wuhan430074, Hubei, China
Shitou Wu
State Key Laboratory of Lithospheric Evolution, Institute of Geology and Geophysics, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing100029, China
Nick M. W. Roberts
Geochronology and Tracers Facility, British Geological Survey, Keyworth, NG12 5GG, UK
Shujing Zhang
Department of Geology, School of Natural Sciences, Trinity College Dublin, Dublin 2, Ireland
Rong Cao
State Key Laboratory of Lithospheric Evolution, Institute of Geology and Geophysics, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing100029, China University of Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing100049, China
Hao Wang
State Key Laboratory of Lithospheric Evolution, Institute of Geology and Geophysics, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing100029, China
Yueheng Yang
State Key Laboratory of Lithospheric Evolution, Institute of Geology and Geophysics, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing100029, China
Author for correspondence: Zhongwu Lan, Email:


Ediacaran cap dolostone atop Marinoan glacial deposits contains complex sedimentary structures with extremely negative δ13Ccarb values in close association with oscillations in palaeoclimatic and oceanographic proxy records. However, the precise geological, geochronological and geochemical context of the cap dolostone is not clarified, which hampers us from correctly interpreting the extremely negative δ13Ccarb values and their causal relationships with the Snowball Earth hypothesis. In this study, we conducted detailed in situ geochronological and geochemical analyses on the calcite within the cap dolostone from the Ediacaran Doushantuo Formation in South China in order to define its formation and relationship to the Snowball Earth hypothesis. Petrographic observations show that formation of dolomite pre-dates precipitation of calcite and pyrite, which pre-dates quartz cementation in the basal cap carbonate. Calcite cement within the cap dolostone yielded a U–Pb age of 636.5 ± 7.4/17.8 Ma (2σ, MSWD = 1.6, n = 36/40), which is within uncertainty of a published dolomite U–Pb age of 632 ± 17 Ma (recalculated as 629.3 ± 16.7/22.9 Ma). These age constraints negate the possibility that the calcite cement was formed by late Ediacaran or Cambrian hydrothermal activity. The rare earth element distribution patterns suggest a dominant seawater origin overprinted by subsequent early Ediacaran hydrothermal activity. The combined age, petrographic and geochemical data suggest oxidization of methane clathrates in response to complicated interplay between eustasy and isostatic rebound and hydrothermal fluids.

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© The Author(s), 2022. Published by Cambridge University Press

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