Surficial shell accumulations from shallow marine settings are typically averaged over centennial-to-millennial time scales and dominated by specimens that died in the most recent centuries, resulting in strongly right-skewed age-frequency distributions (AFDs). However, AFDs from modern offshore settings (outer shelf and uppermost continental slope) still need to be explored. Using individually dated shells (14C-calibrated amino acid racemization), we compared AFDs along an onshore-offshore gradient across the southern Brazilian shelf, with sites ranging from the inner shelf, shallow-water (< 40 m) to offshore, deep-water (> 100 m) settings. The duration of time averaging is slightly higher in deeper water environments, and the AFD shapes change along the depositional profile. The inner shelf AFDs are strongly right-skewed due to the dominance of shells from the most recent millennia (median age range: 0–3 ka). In contrast, on the outer shelf and the uppermost continental slope, AFDs are symmetrical to left-skewed and dominated by specimens that died following the Last Glacial Maximum (median age range: 15–18 ka). The onshore-offshore changes in the observed properties of AFDs—increased median age and decreased skewness, but only slightly increased temporal mixing—likely reflect changes in sea level and concurrent water depth-related changes in biological productivity. These results suggest that on a passive continental margin subject to post-glacial sea-level changes, the magnitude of time-averaging of shell assemblages is less variable along the depositional profile than shell assemblage ages and the shapes of AFDs.

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