Abstract

Sedimentological and stable isotope data from a pelagic sequence recovered from the southern Indian Ocean provide the most convincing evidence to date for short-term expansion of a large ice sheet on Antarctica during the earliest Oligocene (∼36 Ma). Terrigenous debris identified as ice-rafted in origin on the basis of textural, compositional, and size criteria is present at the same stratigraphic level as the ubiquitous early Oligocene oxygen isotope shift. The highest benthic foraminiferal δ18O values (>3.0‰) of the Paleogene occur in samples from within the ice-rafted debris interval. These values are similar to those recorded by Holocene benthic foraminifera, implying that the ice sheet may have attained a volume similar to that of the present-day ice sheet on Antarctica. The stratigraphic distribution of ice-rafted debris and high oxygen isotope values indicate that these conditions persisted for roughly 100 ka.

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