Sedimentary iron cycling and the origin and preservation of magnetization in platform carbonate muds, Andros Island, Bahamas

Adam C. Maloof, Robert E. Kopp, John P. Grotzinger, David A. Fike, Tanja Bosak, Hojotollah Vali, Pascale M. Poussart, Benjamin P. Weiss, Joseph L. Kirschvink

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

42 Scopus citations


Carbonate muds deposited on continental shelves are abundant and well-preserved throughout the geologic record because shelf strata are difficult to subduct and peritidal carbonate units often form thick, rheologically strong units that resist penetrative deformation. Much of what we know about pre-Mesozoic ocean chemistry, carbon cycling, and global change is derived from isotope and trace element geochemistry of platform carbonates. Paleomagnetic data from the same sediments would be invaluable, placing records of paleolatitude, paleogeography, and perturbations to the geomagnetic field in the context and relative chronology of chemostratigraphy. To investigate the depositional and early diagenetic processes that contribute to magneitzation in carbonates, we surveyed over 500 core and surface samples of peritidal, often microbially bound carbonate muds spanning the last ∼ 1000 yr and deposited on top of Pleistocene aeolianites in the Triple Goose Creek region of northwest Andros Island, Bahamas. Sedimentological, geochemical, magnetic and ferromagnetic resonance properties divide the sediment columns into three biogeochemical zones. In the upper sediments, the dominant magnetic mineral is magnetite, produced by magnetotactic bacteria and dissimiliatory microbial iron metabolism. At lower depths, above or near mean tide level, microbial iron reduction dissolves most of the magnetic particles in the sediment. In some cores, magnetic iron sulfides precipitate in a bottom zone of sulfate reduction, likely coupled to the oxidation of decaying mangrove roots. The remanent magnetization preserved in all oriented samples appears indistinguishable from the modern local geomagnetic field, which reflects the post-depositional origin of magnetic particles in the lower zone of the parasequence. While we cannot comment on the effects of late-stage diagenesis or metamorphism on remanence in carbonates, we postulate that early-cemented, thin-laminated parasequence tops in ancient peritidal carbonates are mostly likely to preserve syn-depositional paleomagnetic directions and magnetofossil stratigraphies.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)581-598
Number of pages18
JournalEarth and Planetary Science Letters
Issue number3-4
StatePublished - Jul 30 2007

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Geochemistry and Petrology
  • Geophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science
  • Earth and Planetary Sciences (miscellaneous)


  • Bahamas
  • carbonate platform
  • paleomagnetism
  • parasequence
  • sedimentary magnetism


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