US Geological Survey


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Published in GSA Bulletin; May 2002; v. 114; no. 5; p. 569–592.


New, high-precision U-series ages of solitary corals (Balanophyllia elegans) coupled with molluscan faunal data from marine terraces on the Pacific Coast of North America yield information about the timing and warmth of the last interglacial sea-level highstand. Balanophyllia elegans takes up U in isotopic equilibrium with seawater during growth and shortly after death. Corals from the second terrace on San Clemente Island (offshore southern California), the third terrace on Punta Banda (on the Pacific Coast of northern Baja California), and the Discovery Point Formation on Isla de Guadalupe (in the Pacific Ocean offshore Baja California) date to the peak of the last interglacial period and have U-series ages ranging from ca. 123 to 114 ka. The first terrace on Punta Banda has corals with ages ranging from ca. 83 to 80 ka, which corresponds to a sea-level highstand formed in the late last interglacial period. U-series analyses of corals from the Cayucos terrace (central California) and the Nestor terrace at Point Loma (southern California) show that these fossils have evidence of open-system history, similar to what has been reported by other workers for the same localities. Nevertheless, a model of continuous, secondary U and Th uptake shows that two ages of corals are likely present at these localities, representing the ca. 105 and ca. 120 ka sea-level highstands reported elsewhere.