Molluscan aminostratigraphy of the US Mid-Atlantic Quaternary coastal system: Implications for onshore-offshore correlation, paleochannel and barrier island evolution, and local late Quaternary sea-level history

John F. Wehmiller, Laura L. Brothers, Kelvin W. Ramsey, David S. Foster, C. R. Mattheus, Christopher J. Hein, Justin L. Shawler

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

The Quaternary record of the US Mid-Atlantic coastal system includes onshore emergent late Pleistocene shoreline deposits, offshore inner shelf and barrier island units, and paleovalleys formed during multiple glacial stage sea-level lowstands. The geochronology of this coastal system is based on uranium series, radiocarbon, amino acid racemization (AAR), and optically stimulated luminescence (OSL) methods. We report over 600 mollusk AAR results from 93 sites between northeastern North Carolina and the central New Jersey shelf, representing samples from both onshore cores or outcrops, sub-barrier and offshore cores, and transported shells from barrier island beaches. AAR age estimates are constrained by paired 14C analyses on specific shells and associated U-series coral ages from onshore sites. AAR data from offshore cores are interpreted in the context of detailed seismic stratigraphy. The distribution of Pleistocene-age shells on the island beaches is linked to the distribution of inner shelf or sub-barrier source units. Age mixing over a range of time-scales (~1 ka to ~100 ka) is identified by AAR results from onshore, beach, and shelf collections, often contributing insights into the processes forming individual barrier islands. The regional aminostratigraphic framework identifies a widespread late Pleistocene (Marine Isotope Stage 5) aminozone, with isolated records of middle and early Pleistocene deposition. AAR results provide age estimates for the timing of formation of the three major paleochannels that underlie the Delmarva Peninsula: Persimmon Point paleochannel ≥800 ka; Exmore paleochannel ~400–500 ka (MIS 12); and Eastville paleochannel > 125 ka (MIS 6). The results demonstrate the value of synthesizing abundant AAR chronologic data across various coastal environments, integrating multiple distinct geologic studies. The ages and elevations of the Quaternary units are important for current hypotheses about relative sea-level history and crustal dynamics in the region, which was likely influenced by the Laurentide ice sheet, the margin just ~400 km to the north.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number101177
JournalQuaternary Geochronology
Volume66
DOIs
StateAccepted/In press - 2021
Externally publishedYes

Keywords

  • Age-mixing
  • Amino acid racemization
  • Delmarva peninsula
  • Geochronology
  • Mollusks
  • Paleovalley
  • Quaternary sea-level
  • Seismic stratigraphy
  • US Mid-Atlantic shelf

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geology
  • Stratigraphy
  • Earth and Planetary Sciences (miscellaneous)

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