1932

Abstract

Vertebrate fossils and continental sediments provide a rich record of variations in the isotopic composition of surface environments. To interpret these records, a greater understanding of isotopic sources, as well as fractionations associated with animal physiology, soil geochemistry, and diagenesis, has been essential. Tooth enamel and fish otoliths yield subannual records of surface environments, whereas soil minerals may integrate signals over many thousands of years. Carbon isotope variations in fossil vertebrates and soils record changes in the structure of vegetation and the isotope composition and concentration of atmospheric CO. Oxygen isotope variations may be indirectly related to climate, through reconstruction of the oxygen isotope composition of meteoric water, or directly related to temperature, through application of oxygen isotope paleothermometry to soil minerals or otoliths. In Africa, nitrogen isotope variations show promise as a proxy for rainfall abundance, though the generality of this association elsewhere has not been demonstrated.

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/content/journals/10.1146/annurev.earth.26.1.573
1998-05-01
2024-06-17
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  • Article Type: Review Article
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