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Keywords:

  • Lourinhã formation;
  • Lusitanian Basin;
  • Morrison Formation;
  • palaeoclimatology;
  • palaeosols;
  • stable isotopes

Abstract

Investigation of the palaeoclimatic conditions associated with Upper Jurassic strata in Portugal and comparison with published palaeoclimate reconstructions of the Upper Jurassic Morrison Formation in western North America provide important insights into the conditions that allowed two of the richest terrestrial faunas of this period to flourish. Geochemical analyses and observations of palaeosol morphology in the informally named Upper Jurassic Lourinhã formation of western Portugal indicate warm and wet palaeoclimatic conditions with strongly seasonal precipitation patterns. Palaeosol profiles are dominated by carbonate accumulations and abundant shrink-swell (vertic) features that are both indicative of seasonal variation in moisture availability. The δ18OSMOW and δDSMOW values of phyllosilicates sampled from palaeosol profiles range from +22·4‰ to +22·7‰ and −53·0‰ to −37·3‰, respectively. These isotope values correspond to temperatures of formation between 32°C and 39°C ± 3°, with an average of 36°C, which suggest surface temperatures between 27°C and 34°C (average 31°C). On average, these surface temperature estimates are 1°C higher than the highest summer temperatures modelled for Late Jurassic Iberia using general circulation models. Elemental analysis of matrix material from palaeosol B-horizons provides proxy (chemical index of alteration minus potassium) estimates of mean annual precipitation ranging from 766 to 1394 mm/year, with an average of approximately 1100 mm/year. Palaeoclimatic conditions during deposition of the Lourinhã formation are broadly similar to those inferred for the Morrison Formation, except somewhat wetter. Seasonal variation in moisture availability does not seem to have negatively impacted the ability of these environments to support rich and relatively abundant faunas. The similar climate between these two Late Jurassic terrestrial ecosystems is probably one of the factors which explains the similarity of their vertebrate faunas.