Primary or secondary? A dichotomy of the strontium isotope anomalies in the Ediacaran carbonates of Saudi Arabia

Huan Cui, Alan J. Kaufman, Haibo Zou, Fayek H. Kattan, Peter Trusler, Jeff Smith, Andrey Yu. Ivantsov, Thomas H. Rich, Ashraf Al Qubsani, Abdullah Yazedi, Xiao Ming Liu, Peter Johnson, Steven Goderis, Philippe Claeys, Patricia Vickers-Rich

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

14 Citations (Scopus)


Secular variation of 87Sr/86Sr in carbonate strata has been widely used in regional and global chemostratigraphic correlations. Typically, diagenesis results in higher 87Sr/86Sr signals relative to their primary composition due to the alteration by Rb-rich fluids and radiogenic decay of 87Rb to 87Sr. Surprisingly, 87Sr/86Sr values in the Ediacaran limestones from Saudi Arabia (from 0.7029 to 0.7059) are significantly lower than typical Ediacaran seawater values (mostly from 0.7080 to 0.7090) based on a global compilation. Understanding the origin of these anomalies is important insofar as early macrofossils are preserved in these strata. Two hypotheses have been independently evaluated in this study. The first hypothesis shows a low temperature scenario with isolated oceans or lakes in proximity to a mafic source. The second hypothesis is characterized by a high temperature scenario with profound overprints by juvenile hydrothermal fluids. Integrated Sr and Nd isotope data reveal that the 87Sr/86Sr anomalies are closely coupled with positive εNd(t = 560 Ma) values (up to +4.1). Clear covariations between 87Sr/86Sr, εNd, TOC, δ13Ccarb, δ13Corg, and δ18Ocarb were found. Based on multiple lines of petrographic, field, and geochemical evidence, the second hypothesis (i.e., hydrothermal alteration by juvenile fluids) is preferred in this study. Thermogenic breakdown of organic matter in host sediments may have caused the increasingly low TOC abundance and high δ13Corg signals of the residual organic matter. We argue that the concept that the Ediacaran biotic radiation took place in an isolated lake environment should be treated with caution. These remarkably low 87Sr/86Sr signals have neither temporal nor biogeochemical significance. Sr isotope chemostratigraphy in this particular region may not be a reliable tool for stratigraphic correlations.

Original languageEnglish
Article number105720
Number of pages24
JournalPrecambrian Research
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2020


  • Chemostratigraphy
  • Diagenesis
  • Early macroorganisms
  • Ediacaran
  • Geobiology
  • Hydrothermal alteration
  • Neodymium isotopes
  • Saudi Arabia
  • Strontium isotopes

Cite this