Complex response of dinoflagellate cyst distribution patterns to cooler early Oligocene oceans

Woods, Mark A.; Vandenbroucke, Thijs R.A.; Williams, Mark; Riding, James B. ORCID:; De Schepper, Stijn; Sabbe, Koen. 2014 Complex response of dinoflagellate cyst distribution patterns to cooler early Oligocene oceans. Earth-Science Reviews, 138. 215-230.

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Previous studies have made extensive use of dinoflagellate cysts to reconstruct past sea surface temperature (SST). Analysis of associations of dinoflagellate cysts using two new ocean datasets for the mid Eocene (Bartonian) and early Oligocene (Rupelian) reveals clear latitudinally constrained distributions for the Bartonian, but unexpected changes in their Rupelian distribution; a significant number of species with low and mid latitude northern hemisphere occurrences in the Bartonian extend their northward ranges in the Rupelian, including some forms characterised as ‘warm water’ by previous studies. This suggests either that dinoflagellates are faithfully tracking a complex oceanographic response to Rupelian cooling, or that dinoflagellate sensitivity/adaptability to a range of ecological variables means that at a global scale their distributions are not primarily controlled by sea surface temperature-variability. Previous use of dinoflagellate cysts for palaeoclimate work has relied on rather subjective and inconsistent identification of ‘warm’ and ‘cold’ water forms, rather than comprehensive analysis of community associations at the global-scale. It is clear from this study that a better understanding of the (palaeo-)ecology of dinoflagellates and their cysts is required. Rupelian dinoflagellate cyst distribution may reflect changes in a range of environmental variables linked to early Oligocene climate-cooling, for example changes in nutrient fluxes triggered by glacially-induced base-level fall; complex reorganisation of ocean current systems between the Bartonian and Rupelian, or muted changes to Rupelian summer SSTs in the northern hemisphere that have previously been reported. Many extant dinoflagellate species also exhibit relatively broad temperature tolerance. Moreover, they have potentially extensive cryptic diversity, and are able to produce dormant cysts during short-lived environmental deterioration, all of which may act to limit the value of undifferentiated dinoflagellate cyst assemblages for identifying climate signals.

Item Type: Publication - Article
Digital Object Identifier (DOI):
ISSN: 00128252
Date made live: 01 Dec 2014 14:47 +0 (UTC)

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