Coupled vanadium and thallium isotope constraints on Mesoproterozoic ocean oxygenation around 1.38-1.39 Ga

Andy W. Heard*, Yi Wang, Chadlin M. Ostrander, Maureen Auro, Donald E. Canfield, Shuichang Zhang, Huajian Wang, Xiaomei Wang, Sune G. Nielsen

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review


The oxygenation state of the Mid-Proterozoic (1.8 – 0.8 Ga) ocean and atmosphere is heavily debated and has implications for the relationship between environmental O2 and the emergence of complex life. While recent geochemical proxy studies of Mesoproterozoic marine sedimentary rocks inform a picture of deep water redox dominated by widespread ferruginous (iron-rich and anoxic) conditions, a growing number of datasets indicate that short-lived ocean oxygenation events were recurrent features of this time interval. The spatial extent of previously reported Mesoproterozoic oxygen pulses is often unclear as they are predominantly observed via localized environmental proxies. In this study, we use the vanadium (V) and thallium (Tl) isotope paleoredox proxies to provide a global marine redox perspective during a short interval of the Mesoproterozoic. We reconstructed seawater V (δ51VSW) and Tl (ε205TlSW) isotopic compositions from shales from Unit 2 of the 1.38-1.39 Ga Xiamaling Formation (North China craton) that show an up-section shift in average δ51VSW values from 0.02‰ to 0.15‰ and a short-lived perturbation in ε205TlSW from −2.5 to −4.2. Mass-balance models for both isotopic systems are consistent with these isotopic shifts representing an expansion of oxic water column and porewater conditions from a more anoxic (ferruginous) baseline ocean state. The short-lived nature of the ε205TlSW perturbation versus the shift in δ51VSW suggests that environments sufficiently oxygenated to support widespread Mn oxide burial were only established for a fraction of this overall oxic expansion. The ocean residence time of V and Tl requires that this oxygenation event was global in extent and may reflect either a purely oceanic phenomenon such as global deepening of the oxycline, or alternatively, global ocean-atmosphere equilibration during a short-lived episode of elevated atmospheric oxygenation.

Original languageEnglish
Article number118127
JournalEarth and Planetary Science Letters
Number of pages12
Publication statusPublished - 15. May 2023


  • Mesoproterozoic oxygenation
  • ocean oxygenation
  • thallium isotopes
  • vanadium isotopes


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