Late Pliocene Paleoecologic Reconstructions Based on Ostracode Assemblages from the Sagavanirktok and Gubik Formations, Alaskan North Slope


  • Elisabeth M. Brouwers



Bottom sediments, Climate change, Evolution (Biology), Extinction, Geological time, Ocean temperature, Ostracoda, Palaeohydrology, Palaeontology, Pliocene epoch, Stratigraphy, Water masses, Alaska, Northern, Arctic Ocean, Barter Island, Bering Sea, Camden Bay region, North Atlantic Ocean


Shallow-marine ostracode assemblages from upper Pliocene sediments of the upper part of the Sagavanirktok Formation and lower part of the Gubik Formation record the last warm period that occurred before the onset of significant cooling of the Arctic Ocean and the initiation of Northern Hemisphere continental glaciation. The informally named Colvillian and Bigbendian transgressions represent the oldest deposits of the Gubik Formation and are dated, based on various lines of evidence, between 2.48 and 3 Ma. Ostracode faunas from the lower part of the Gubik Formation indicate a cold-temperate to subfrigid marine climate with summer bottom temperatures 1-4 C warmer than today. Deposits of the upper part of the Sagavanirktok Formation at Manning Point and Barter Island are older than Colvillian sediments but are believed to be late Pliocene in age and contain an ostracode fauna that has many species in common with the lower part of the Gubik Formation. The Sagavanirktok ostracode faunas indicate a cold-temperature to subfrigid marine climate, similar to that inferred for the lower part of the Gubik Formation, with summer bottom temperatures 1-3 C warmer than today. The opening of Bering Strait at about 3 Ma altered Arctic Ocean assemblage composition as Pacific species migrated into the Arctic and North Atlantic oceans. The admixture of evolutionarily distinct faunas from the Atlantic and Pacific oceans identifies Colvillian (and younger) faunas and provides a convenient reference horizon in the Alaskan fossil record. The marine climatic deterioration that followed the Bigbendian appears to have been abrupt and is documented by biotic turnover, with large numbers of species extinctions and first appearances of new species. The change in species composition can be attributed to the cooling of the Arctic Ocean during the late Pliocene.

Key words: Pliocene, ostracode, Sagavanirktok Formation, Nuwok Member, Gubik Formation, Alaska, North Slope, shallow marine