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Volume 28 Issue 12 (December 2018)

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Triassic Eustatic Variations Reexamined

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Bilal U. Haq

Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C., USA, and Sorbonne University, Paris, France


Documentation of eustatic variations for the Triassic is limited by the paucity of the preserved marine stratigraphic record, which is confined mostly to the low and middle paleolatitudes of the Tethys Ocean. A revised sea-level curve based on reevaluation of global stratigraphic data shows a clear trend of low seastands for an extended period that spans almost 80 m.y., from the latest Permian to the earliest Jurassic. In the Early and Middle Triassic, the long-term sea levels were similar to or 10–20 m higher than the present-day mean sea level (pdmsl). This trend was reversed in the late Ladinian, marked by a steady rise and culminating in peak sea levels of the Triassic (~50 m above pdmsl) in the late Carnian. The trend reverses again with a decline in the late Norian and the base level remaining close to the pdmsl, and then dipping further in the mid-Rhaetian to ~50 m below pdmsl into the latest Triassic and earliest Jurassic. Superimposed upon this long-term trend is the record of 22 widespread third-order sequence boundaries that have been identified, indicating sea-level falls of mostly minor (<25 m) to medium (25–75 m) amplitude. Only six of these falls are considered major, exceeding the amplitude of 75 m. The long interval of Triassic oceanic withdrawal is likely to have led to general scarcity of preserved marine record and large stratigraphic lacunae. Lacking evidence of continental ice sheets in the Triassic, glacio-eustasy as the driving mechanism for the third-order cyclicity can be ruled out. And even though transfer of water to and from land aquifers to the ocean as a potential cause is plausible for minor (a few tens of meters) sea-level falls, the process seems counter-intuitive for third-order events for much of the Triassic. Triassic paleoenvironmental scenarios demonstrate a close link between eustasy, climates, and biodiversity.

Manuscript received 17 July 2018. Revised manuscript received 22 Sept. 2018. Manuscript accepted 28 Sept. 2018. Posted 10 Oct. 2018.

© The Geological Society of America, 2018. CC-BY-NC.