Abstract

The Ediacaran period began with the deglaciation of the ca. 635 Ma Marinoan snowball Earth and the deposition of cap dolostones on continental shelves worldwide during post-glacial sea-level rise. These carbonates sharply overlie glacial sediments deposited at low paleolatitudes and preserve negative carbon isotope excursions. The snowball Earth hypothesis invokes an almost complete cessation of primary productivity in the surface ocean. Because assimilatory uptake of Zn appears to fractionate its isotopes, Zn isotope ratios measured in carbonate precipitated in the surface ocean should track fluctuations in primary productivity. Here we report the first Zn isotopic data, together with carbon and oxygen isotopic profiles from a Neoproterozoic cap dolostone, the Nuccaleena Formation in the Flinders Ranges, South Australia. We interpret the Zn isotopic data in terms of a two-stage evolution of the deglacial ocean. Slightly 66Zn-enriched values at the base of the cap dolostone indicate immediate resumption of the biological pump upon melting of the surface ocean, but this signal was diluted by intense surface runoff that drove δ66Zn (66Zn/64Zn, versus the JMC Lyon reference) values down to the composition of continentally derived Zn. A subsequent rise in δ66Zn records a vigorous increase in primary production and export from a nutrient-laden surface ocean.

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