Planktonic foraminiferal oxygen isotope analysis by ion microprobe technique suggests warm tropical sea surface temperatures during the Early Paleogene



[1] Cool tropical sea surface temperatures (SSTs) are reported for warm Paleogene greenhouse climates based on the δ18O of planktonic foraminiferal tests. These results are difficult to reconcile with models of greenhouse gas–forced climate. It has been suggested that this “cool tropics paradox” arises from postdepositional alteration of foraminiferal calcite, yielding erroneously high δ18O values. Recrystallization of foraminiferal tests is cryptic and difficult to quantify, and the compilation of robust δ18O records from moderately altered material remains challenging. Scanning electron microscopy of planktonic foraminiferal chamber-wall cross sections reveals that the basal area of muricae, pustular outgrowths on the chamber walls of species belonging to the genus Morozovella, contain no mural pores and may be less susceptible to postdepositional alteration. We analyzed the δ18O in muricae bases of morozovellids from the central Pacific (Ocean Drilling Program Site 865) by ion microprobe using 10 μm pits with an analytical reproducibility of ±0.34‰ (2 standard deviations). In situ measurements of δ18O in these domains yield consistently lower values than those published for conventional multispecimen analyses. Assuming that the original δ18O is largely preserved in the basal areas of muricae, this new δ18O record indicates Early Paleogene (∼49–56 Ma) tropical SSTs in the central Pacific were 4°–8°C higher than inferred from the previously published δ18O record and that SSTs reached at least ∼33°C during the Paleocene-Eocene thermal maximum. This study demonstrates the utility of ion microprobe analysis for generating more reliable paleoclimate records from moderately altered foraminiferal tests preserved in deep-sea sediments.