The Bahamian Archipelago is one of the few locations in the world where ooid formation is actively occurring. Ooid cortices from six locations in the region were incrementally dissolved and analyzed for 14C, δ18O, δ13C, Mg/Ca, and Sr/Ca ratios. Ooids were examined under SEM after each step in the incremental analyses to characterize the nature of dissolution. Radiocarbon dating indicates that ooids presently at the sediment–water interface began forming across the Archipelago between 1000 and 2800 yr BP and continue to form today.
The ooids have the same pattern of microboring alteration across the region. The surface and outer cortex of the ooids are punctuated with unfilled microborings, whereas the inner cortex contains two morphologies of aragonite cement filling the microborings. The two morphologies of cement form in association with two different species of cyanobacteria, one is Solentia sp. the other is interpreted to be Hyella sp.
The chemistry of ooids from across the region is remarkably similar. δ18O and δ13C values for all samples vary directly, having a slope of approximately 1. The outer cortex has low δ18O and δ13C values of −3.4‰ and 0.2‰ respectively, whereas the δ18O and δ13C values of the inner cortex are high with values of 1.9‰ and 6.8‰ respectively. The presence of aragonite cement in microborings in the inner cortex increases the overall isotopic composition of both oxygen and carbon in the ooid, causing it to appear close to equilibrium with seawater. The isotopic variation in δ18O and δ13C within the cortex can be characterized as a mixing line between the low values in the unaltered ooid laminae and the aragonite cement in the microborings.
The most exterior portion of the ooid has very high Mg/Ca values and is interpreted as an amorphous calcium carbonate (ACC) coating. There are two other phases in the cortex, both being aragonite. The outer cortex has a higher Mg/Ca ratio and lower Sr/Ca ratio than the inner cortex. This difference in chemistry is a result of the presence of aragonite cement in the inner cortex.
Stable isotopic and trace element results coupled with SEM investigations indicate that microbes do not play a role in ooid formation, but instead alter the texture and chemistry of ooids after they have formed. A new model of ooid formation is proposed whereby a veneer of ACC precipitates on an ooid while it is at the sediment–water interface (the active phase). This veneer of ACC later recrystallizes to aragonite needles and a new cortex layer is formed (the stationary phase). Observations from this study lead to a deeper understanding of the chemical processes involved in ooid genesis, which allow a better understanding of paleoenvironments hosting ooid formation.