Uranium-series ages of fossil corals from Mallorca, Spain: The "Neotyrrhenian" high stand of the Mediterranean Sea revisited

Daniel R. Muhs, Kathleen R. Simmons, Joaquín Meco, Naomi Porat

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

29 Scopus citations


The emergent marine deposits of the Mediterranean basin have been recognized as an important record of Quaternary sea level history for more than a century. Previous workers identified what have been interpreted to be two separate high stands of sea in the late Quaternary, namely the "Eutyrrhenian" (thought to be ~ 120 ka) and the "Neotyrrhenian" (thought to be either ~ 100 ka or ~ 80 ka). On Mallorca, Spain, both of these named deposits lie close to present sea level, implying paleo-sea levels slightly above present during both marine isotope stages (MIS) 5.5/5e and either 5.3/5c or 5.1/5a. If these interpretations are correct, they conflict, at least in part, with sea level records from far-field localities.We analyzed corals from the Neotyrrhenian beds on Mallorca, which gave U-series ages from ~ 126 ka to ~ 118 ka. These ages are consistent with previously published amino acid data that show that the Neotyrrhenian and Eutyrrhenian deposits are not significantly different in age. A fossil molluscan fauna from the Neotyrrhenian deposits on Mallorca has a warm-water paleozoogeographic aspect, with nine southward-ranging species and four extralimital southern species. When compared with sea surface temperatures obtained from planktonic foraminifera and alkenones from ODP core 977 in the nearby Alboran Sea, the only time period that shows comparable warmth is MIS 5.5/5e, consistent with the U-series ages of corals from the Neotyrrhenian deposits. We propose that the Neotyrrhenian deposits are a beachrock facies of the same age as the Eutyrrhenian deposits. This interpretation is consistent with the differences in physical sedimentology of the two deposits, explains the U-series and amino acid data indicating the same age, is consistent with the very slight elevation difference of the Neotyrrhenian and Eutyrrhenian beds, and explains the similar, though not identical paleozoogeographic aspects of their fossil faunas.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)408-424
Number of pages17
JournalPalaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology
StatePublished - 15 Nov 2015
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2015.


Work by U.S. Geological Survey authors was supported by the Climate and Land Use Change Research and Development Program of the U.S. Geological Survey and is a contribution to the “Geologic Records of High Sea Levels” Project. Special thanks go to Gary Skipp (USGS), who X-rayed all the corals in this study. We thank Robert Halley (USGS, retired) for very helpful discussions. Our sincere appreciation is extended to Dr. Belen Martrat for advice on which ODP core records to examine and to Dr. Francisco Sierro for providing the planktonic foraminiferal-derived SST data from ODP core 977. Dr. William G. Thompson (Woods Hole) kindly provided his U-series open-system correction system software and guided us in its use, for which we express our thanks. Drs. Margaret Berry and Keith Lucey (both U.S. Geological Survey), Jim Rose (Royal Holloway, University of London), two anonymous reviewers, and editor Thierry Corrège provided helpful comments on an earlier version of the paper.

FundersFunder number
Climate and Land Use Change Research and Development Program of the
U.S. Geological Survey


    • Coral
    • Last interglacial period
    • Mediterranean
    • Paleozoogeography
    • Sea level history
    • Uranium-series dating


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