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Very Long-Lived Mollusks Confirm 17th Century AD Tephra-Based Radiocarbon Reservoir Ages for North Icelandic Shelf Waters

Alan D Wanamaker Jr, Jan Heinemeier, James D Scourse, Christopher A Richardson, Paul G Butler, Jon Eiriksson, Karen Luise Knudsen

Abstract


Marine sediment records from the north Icelandic shelf, which rely on tephrochronological age models, reveal an average ΔR (regional deviation from the modeled global surface ocean reservoir age) of approximately 150 yr for the last millennium. These tephra-based age models have not hitherto been independently verified. Here, we provide data that corroborate ΔR values derived from these sediment archives. We sampled the youngest portion (ontogenetic age) of a bivalve shell, Arctica islandica (L.), for radiocarbon analysis, which was collected alive in 2006 from the north Icelandic shelf in ~80 m water depth. Annual band counting from the sectioned shell revealed that this clam lived for more than 405 yr, making it the longest-lived mollusk and possibly the oldest non-colonial animal yet documented. The 14C age derived from the umbo region of the shell is 951 ± 27 yr BP. Assuming that the bivalve settled onto the seabed at AD 1600, the corresponding local value of ΔR is found to be 237 ± 35 yr by comparison of the 14C age with the Marine04 calibration curve (Hughen et al. 2004) at this time. Furthermore, we cross-matched a 287-yr-old, dead-collected, A. islandica shell from AD 1601 to 1656 from the same site with the live-caught individual. 14C analysis from the ventral margin of this shell revealed a ΔR of 186 ± 50 yr at AD 1650. These values compare favorably with each other and with the tephra-based ΔR values during this period, illustrating that 14C from A. islandica can effectively record 14C reservoir changes in the shelf seas.

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