Stratigraphy and geochronology of the Tambien Group, Ethiopia: Evidence for globally synchronous carbon isotope change in the Neoproterozoic

Nicholas L. Swanson-Hysell, Adam C. Maloof, Daniel J. Condon, Gawen R.T. Jenkin, Mulugeta Alene, Marissa M. Tremblay, Tadele Tesema, Alan D. Rooney, Bereket Haileab

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

66 Scopus citations


The Neoproterozoic Era was an interval characterized by profound environmental and biological transitions. Existing age models for Neoproterozoic nonglacial intervals largely have been based on correlation of carbonate carbon isotope values, but there are few tests of the assumed synchroneity of these records between basins. In contrast to the ash-poor successions typically targeted for Neoproterozoic chemostratigraphy, the Tonian to Cryogenian Tambien Group (Tigray region, Ethiopia) was deposited in an arc-proximal basin where volcanic tuffs suitable for U-Pb geochronology are preserved within the mixed carbonate-siliciclastic sedimentary succession. The Tambien Group culminates in a diamictite interpreted to correlate to the ca. 717-662 Ma Sturtian snowball Earth glaciation. New physical stratigraphic data and high-precision U-Pb dates from intercalated tuffs lead to a new stratigraphic framework for the Tambien Group that confirms identification of negative δ13C values from Assem Formation limestones with the ca. 800 Ma Bitter Springs carbon isotope stage. Integration with data from the Fifteenmile Group of northwestern Canada constitutes a positive test for the global synchroneity of the Bitter Spring Stage and constrains the stage to have started after 811.51 ± 0.25 Ma and to have ended before 788.72 ± 0.24 Ma. These new temporal constraints strengthen the case for interpreting Neoproterozoic carbon isotope variation as a record of large-scale changes to the carbon cycle and provide a framework for age models of paleogeographic change, geochemical cycling, and environmental evolution during the radiation of early eukaryotes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)323-326
Number of pages4
Issue number4
StatePublished - Feb 27 2015

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Geology


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