Stratigraphy and geochronology of pitfall accumulations in caves and fissures, Bermuda

Paul J. Hearty, Storrs L. Olson, Darrell S. Kaufman, R. Lawrence Edwards, Hai Cheng

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

48 Scopus citations


Deep fractures ("fissures") and avens ("skylights") in limestone cave roofs create natural traps for sediments and biota. Fissures fill quickly with surface sediment and organisms soon after opening. Debris cones are formed as materials fall, wash, or drift on air through openings in cave skylights. Such deposits in Admiral's and Grand Canyon Cave, Bermuda contain distinct beds and are composed of mixtures of sediment and charcoal, together with fossils of land snails, crabs, birds, reptiles, and bats. The "pitfall" accumulations were periodically sealed over by calcite flowstone. A stratigraphic record of surface activity and fauna through both glacial and interglacial periods has been preserved. The succession also provides an ideal setting in which to compare several geochronological methods. Calibrated 14C ages on charcoal and shells provide dated horizons at 1600, 12,800, and about 35,000 14C yr BP. Thermal ionization mass spectrometric (TIMS) ages on several flowstone layers constrain the entire sequence in the Admiral's Cave sequence between 126,300±900yr (Termination II) and historical times. A continuous relative-age record generated by amino acid epimerization (AAE) geochronology (D-alloisoleucine/L- isoleucine or aIle/Ile) on the pulmonate land gastropod Poecilozonites verifies the biostratigraphy, reveals a minimal degree of mixing between stratigraphic units, and establishes an independent temporal link between the subterranean and subaerial deposits of Bermuda. This convergence between stratigraphy and geochronology yields a precisely dated succession from the oceanic island of Bermuda, and thus presents a unique opportunity to assess the rates and processes of evolutionary and climate change during that interval.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1151-1171
Number of pages21
JournalQuaternary Science Reviews
Issue number9-10
StatePublished - May 2004

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Global and Planetary Change
  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Archaeology
  • Archaeology
  • Geology


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