Paleontological evidence of a brief global sea-level event during the last interglacial



A gently undulating to flat erosion surface with shallow-water borings and burrows is present in the midst of a Sangamonian (Eemian; marine oxygen isotope substage 5e) reefal facies on the islands of San Salvador and Great Inagua, Bahamas. Precise U/Th dating of corals above and below this surface show that it formed around 125-124 ka, and that the sea-level regressive-transgressive cycle which produced it lasted for 1500 years or less. The surface occurs on entirely carbonate rocks and has a low relief punctuated by erosional channels and karstic caves formed during the sea-level lowstand. A terra rossa paleosol, developed during that lowstand, partially fills a set of large lithophagid bivalve borings (Gastrochaenolites torpedo), showing that they were excavated during the regression. Rhizomorphs formed by plant roots occur on the erosion surface at Great Inagua. Extensive boring of the upward-facing surfaces occurred during the ensuing transgression, including a smaller G. torpedo and a clionid sponge boring (Entobia ovula). The bored surface is encrusted by a variety of shallow-water corals and, eventually, the re-established bank-barrier coral reefs. A sparse assemblage of serpulid worm and vermicularid gastropod tubes encrusted the channel and cave walls. Robust Ophiomorpha burrow systems occur within pockets of sediment in the coral facies both below and above the erosion surface. The channels and caves are filled with transgressive calcarenitic sediments in which occur numerous Ophiomorpha and Skolithos burrows. The ichnofossils on, below, and above this erosion surface are prominent indicators of a short-lived but significant global sea-level event.