Aminochronology and time averaging of Quaternary land snail assemblages from colluvial deposits in the Madeira Archipelago, Portugal

Evan New, Yurena Yanes, Robert A.D. Cameron, Joshua H. Miller, Dinarte Teixeira, Darrell S. Kaufman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

12 Scopus citations


Understanding the properties of time averaging (age mixing) in a stratigraphic layer is essential for properly interpreting the paleofauna preserved in the geologic record. This work assesses the age and quantifies the scale and structure of time averaging of land snail-rich colluvial sediments from the Madeira Archipelago (Portugal) by dating individual shells using amino acid racemization calibrated with graphite-target and carbonate-target accelerator mass spectrometry radiocarbon methods. Gastropod shells of Actinella nitidiuscula were collected from seven sites on the volcanic islands of Bugio and Deserta Grande (Desertas Islands), where snail shells are abundant and well preserved in Quaternary colluvial deposits. Results show that the shells ranged in age from modern to ∼48 cal ka BP (calibrated radiocarbon age), covering the last glacial and present interglacial periods. Snail shells retrieved from two of the colluvial sites exhibit multimillennial age mixing (>6 ka), which significantly exceeds the analytical error from dating methods and calibration. The observed multimillennial mixing of these assemblages should be taking into consideration in upcoming paleoenvironmental and paleoecological studies in the region. The extent of age mixing may also inform about the time span of colluvial deposition, which can be useful in future geomorphological studies. In addition, this study presents the first carbonate-target radiocarbon results for land snail shells and suggests that this novel, rapid, and more affordable dating method offers reliable age estimates for small land snail shells younger than ∼20 cal ka BP.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)483-496
Number of pages14
JournalQuaternary Research (United States)
Issue number2
StatePublished - Sep 1 2019


  • Age mixing
  • Amino acid racemization
  • Carbonate-target C dating
  • Desertas Islands
  • Land snails
  • Quaternary

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
  • Earth-Surface Processes
  • General Earth and Planetary Sciences


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