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Rend. Online Soc. Geol. It., Vol. 17 (2011) - (DOI 10.3301/ROL.2011.50)

On the trail of the turbulent Aptian world: a geological Forbrydelsen

P. Skelton (*)

(*) Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences, The Open University, Milton Keynes MK7 6AA, UK



The hugely successful Danish thriller serial, Forbrydelsen, shown as ‘The Killing’ on UK television, began with an horrific murder and then teased the audience with a string of suspects, each successively dismissed in the face of new evidence. We knew that something dreadful had occurred, but working out exactly what was hard enough, and how it happened, even harder – just like our attempts to untangle the troubled history of the Aptian world.
The marine rock record of the stage testifies to episodic carbonate platform growth and organic burial in basins, with dramatic turnover of their respective biota, played out against a backdrop of copious oceanic volcanism, while isotopic chemostratigraphy reveals the fingerprints of massive perturbations of the global carbon cycle. We indeed know that many dreadful things occurred, but sorting out exactly what, where and, especially, in what sequence remains unfinished business, waiting upon improved correlation between various stratigraphical scales. Meanwhile, our desire to understand the ‘how’ of these tandem histories leads us to speculate beyond the current evidence, like the detectives of the Danish thriller, and to haul in one suspect after another for questioning, only to have to release them in a subsequent episode. For some time, a favoured suspect for the demise (at least, regionally) of carbonate platforms, as well as oceanic anoxia and large-scale organic burial, has been eutrophication, fuelled by increased nutrient flux from hinterlands subjected to weathering in an extreme greenhouse climate. However, an accumulation of inconvenient evidence concerning the timing and geographical distribution of effects has progressively weakened that case, and the suspect may at most have been merely an accessory to the crime. Now, suspicion is increasingly falling on another player with more sinister networking powers - already familiar to us as a leading ‘Mr. Nasty’ in our present global environmental drama – ocean acidification. Is this where the trail will end? Wait until the last episode, to see!


KEY WORDS: Aptian, carbonate platforms, ocean acidifi cation, global carbon cycle.

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