Last glacial maximum ecology and climate from terrestrial gastropod assemblages in Peoria loess, western Kentucky

David A. Grimley, Ronald C. Counts, Jessica L. Conroy, Hong Wang, Sarah N. Dendy, Catherine B. Nield

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The Rocks loess section, in unglaciated western Kentucky, provides a high-resolution environmental record during the last glacial maximum onset. The Peoria Silt (9 m thick) contains 26 terrestrial gastropod species, with up to 15 species within a single 5 cm interval. Thirteen radiocarbon ages, using shells or charcoal, range between 30 and 24.5 cal ka; younger loess has been leached or eroded. Stratigraphic shifts in gastropod assemblages imply significant cooling, particularly ~27 cal ka, as solar insolation was decreasing and the southern Laurentide Ice Sheet rapidly advancing. Midwestern to southern species (e.g. Anguispira kochi, Gastrocopta pentodon, Hawaii miniscula, Helicodiscus parallelus, Vallonia perspectiva) occur only in the lowermost Peoria Silt (~30–27 cal ka). In contrast, cold-tolerant species (Columella alticola, Vertigo modesta, Vallonia gracilicosta) occur only in full glacial Peoria Silt (27–24.5 cal ka). Inferred mean July temperatures, from mutual climatic range methods, range from ~23 °C at 30 cal ka, cooling to ~18 °C by 26 cal ka; about 3–8 °C cooler than today (~26 °C). Superimposed on this cooling trend are multi-centennial variations in detrital carbonate, fossil shell concentrations, palaeotemperature estimates, and oxygen isotope values (Vertigo, Discus, Helicodiscus). The finer-scale variations imply relatively synchronous fluctuations in glacial sediment supply, loess sedimentation, and climate.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)650-663
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of Quaternary Science
Issue number5
StatePublished - Jul 1 2020


  • Kentucky
  • last glacial
  • loess
  • stable oxygen and carbon isotopes
  • terrestrial gastropods

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
  • Earth and Planetary Sciences (miscellaneous)
  • Palaeontology


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