Seasonal Mg/Ca variability of N. pachyderma (s) and G. bulloides: Implications for seawater temperature reconstruction

Lukas Jonkers*, Patricia Jiménez-Amat, P. Graham Mortyn, Geert Jan A. Brummer

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

18 Citations (Scopus)


Given the importance of high-latitude areas in the ocean-climate system, there is need for a paleothermometer that is reliable at low temperatures. Here we assess the applicability of the Mg/Ca-temperature proxy in colder waters (5-10°C) by comparing for the first time the seasonal Mg/Ca and δ18O cycles of N. pachyderma (s) and G. bulloides using a sediment trap time-series from the northern North Atlantic. While both species show indistinguishable seasonal δ18O patterns that clearly track the near surface temperature cycle, their Mg/Ca are very different. G. bulloides Mg/Ca is high (2.0-3.1 mmol/mol), but varies in concert with the seasonal temperature cycle. The Mg/Ca of N. pachyderma (s), on the other hand, is low (1.1-1.5 mmol/mol) and shows only a very weak seasonal cycle. The δ18O patterns indicate that both species calcify in the same depth zone. Consequently, depth habitat differences cannot explain the contrasting Mg/Ca patterns. The elevated Mg/Ca in pristine G. bulloides might be due to the presence of high Mg phases that are not preserved in fossil shells. The contrasting absence of a seasonal trend in the Mg/Ca of N. pachyderma (s) confirms other studies where calcification temperatures were less well constrained. The reason for this absence is not fully known, but may include species-specific vital effects. The very different seasonal patterns of both species' Mg/Ca underscore the importance of parameters other than temperature in controlling planktonic foraminiferal Mg/Ca. Our results therefore lend further caution in the interpretation of Mg/Ca-temperature reconstructions from high northern latitudes.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)137-144
Number of pages8
JournalEarth and Planetary Science Letters
Publication statusPublished - 5 Aug 2013


  • Mg/Ca-temperature proxy
  • North Atlantic
  • Planktonic foraminifera
  • Sediment trap
  • Stable oxygen isotopes


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