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Data release for Oxygen isotopes in terrestrial gastropod shells track Quaternary climate change in the American Southwest

May 20, 2021

Recent studies have shown the oxygen isotopic composition (delta18O) of modern terrestrial gastropod shells is determined largely by the delta18O of precipitation. This implies that fossil shells could be used to reconstruct the delta18O of paleo-precipitation as long as the hydrologic pathways of the local watershed and the shell isotope systematics are well understood. In this study, we measured the delta18O values of 456 individual gastropod shells collected from paleowetland deposits in the San Pedro Valley, Arizona that range in age from ~29.1 to 9.8 ka. Isotopic differences of up to 2permill were identified between the four taxa analyzed (Succineidae, Pupilla hebes, Gastrocopta tappaniana, and Vallonia gracilicosta), with Succineidae shells yielding the highest values and V. gracilicosta shells exhibiting the lowest values. We used these data to construct an isotopic record that incorporates these taxonomic offsets, and found shell delta18O values increased by ~4permill between the last glacial maximum and early Holocene, similar to the magnitude, direction, and rate of isotopic changes recorded by speleothems in the region. These results suggest the terrestrial gastropods analyzed here may be used as a proxy for past climate in a manner that is similar to speleothems, but with potentially much greater spatial coverage.

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