Publications by authors named "Richard D Norris"

17 Publications

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A Neolithic mega-tsunami event in the eastern Mediterranean: Prehistoric settlement vulnerability along the Carmel coast, Israel.

PLoS One 2020 23;15(12):e0243619. Epub 2020 Dec 23.

Department of Anthropology, Scripps Center for Marine Archaeology, University of California, San Diego, California, United States of America.

Tsunami events in antiquity had a profound influence on coastal societies. Six thousand years of historical records and geological data show that tsunamis are a common phenomenon affecting the eastern Mediterranean coastline. However, the possible impact of older tsunamis on prehistoric societies has not been investigated. Here we report, based on optically stimulated luminescence chronology, the earliest documented Holocene tsunami event, between 9.91 to 9.29 ka (kilo-annum), from the eastern Mediterranean at Dor, Israel. Tsunami debris from the early Neolithic is composed of marine sand embedded within fresh-brackish wetland deposits. Global and local sea-level curves for the period, 9.91-9.29 ka, as well as surface elevation reconstructions, show that the tsunami had a run-up of at least ~16 m and traveled between 3.5 to 1.5 km inland from the palaeo-coastline. Submerged slump scars on the continental slope, 16 km west of Dor, point to the nearby "Dor-complex" as a likely cause. The near absence of Pre-Pottery Neolithic A-B archaeological sites (11.70-9.80 cal. ka) suggest these sites were removed by the tsunami, whereas younger, late Pre-Pottery Neolithic B-C (9.25-8.35 cal. ka) and later Pottery-Neolithic sites (8.25-7.80 cal. ka) indicate resettlement following the event. The large run-up of this event highlights the disruptive impact of tsunamis on past societies along the Levantine coast.
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http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0243619PLOS
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7757801PMC
February 2021

On impact and volcanism across the Cretaceous-Paleogene boundary.

Science 2020 01;367(6475):266-272

Department of Stratigraphy, Geological Survey of Denmark and Greenland (GEUS), DK-1350 Copenhagen K, Denmark.

The cause of the end-Cretaceous mass extinction is vigorously debated, owing to the occurrence of a very large bolide impact and flood basalt volcanism near the boundary. Disentangling their relative importance is complicated by uncertainty regarding kill mechanisms and the relative timing of volcanogenic outgassing, impact, and extinction. We used carbon cycle modeling and paleotemperature records to constrain the timing of volcanogenic outgassing. We found support for major outgassing beginning and ending distinctly before the impact, with only the impact coinciding with mass extinction and biologically amplified carbon cycle change. Our models show that these extinction-related carbon cycle changes would have allowed the ocean to absorb massive amounts of carbon dioxide, thus limiting the global warming otherwise expected from postextinction volcanism.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1126/science.aay5055DOI Listing
January 2020

Very large release of mostly volcanic carbon during the Palaeocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum.

Nature 2017 08;548(7669):573-577

Ocean and Earth Science, National Oceanography Centre Southampton, University of Southampton, Southampton SO17 1BJ, UK.

The Palaeocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum (PETM) was a global warming event that occurred about 56 million years ago, and is commonly thought to have been driven primarily by the destabilization of carbon from surface sedimentary reservoirs such as methane hydrates. However, it remains controversial whether such reservoirs were indeed the source of the carbon that drove the warming. Resolving this issue is key to understanding the proximal cause of the warming, and to quantifying the roles of triggers versus feedbacks. Here we present boron isotope data-a proxy for seawater pH-that show that the ocean surface pH was persistently low during the PETM. We combine our pH data with a paired carbon isotope record in an Earth system model in order to reconstruct the unfolding carbon-cycle dynamics during the event. We find strong evidence for a much larger (more than 10,000 petagrams)-and, on average, isotopically heavier-carbon source than considered previously. This leads us to identify volcanism associated with the North Atlantic Igneous Province, rather than carbon from a surface reservoir, as the main driver of the PETM. This finding implies that climate-driven amplification of organic carbon feedbacks probably played only a minor part in driving the event. However, we find that enhanced burial of organic matter seems to have been important in eventually sequestering the released carbon and accelerating the recovery of the Earth system.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/nature23646DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5582631PMC
August 2017

Prehistorical and historical declines in Caribbean coral reef accretion rates driven by loss of parrotfish.

Nat Commun 2017 01 23;8:14160. Epub 2017 Jan 23.

Center for Marine Biodiversity and Conservation, Scripps Institution of Oceanography, UC San Diego, La Jolla, California 92093, USA.

Caribbean coral reefs have transformed into algal-dominated habitats over recent decades, but the mechanisms of change are unresolved due to a lack of quantitative ecological data before large-scale human impacts. To understand the role of reduced herbivory in recent coral declines, we produce a high-resolution 3,000 year record of reef accretion rate and herbivore (parrotfish and urchin) abundance from the analysis of sediments and fish, coral and urchin subfossils within cores from Caribbean Panama. At each site, declines in accretion rates and parrotfish abundance were initiated in the prehistorical or historical period. Statistical tests of direct cause and effect relationships using convergent cross mapping reveal that accretion rates are driven by parrotfish abundance (but not vice versa) but are not affected by total urchin abundance. These results confirm the critical role of parrotfish in maintaining coral-dominated reef habitat and the urgent need for restoration of parrotfish populations to enable reef persistence.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/ncomms14160DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5267576PMC
January 2017

Formation of the Isthmus of Panama.

Sci Adv 2016 08 17;2(8):e1600883. Epub 2016 Aug 17.

Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute, Box 0843-03092, Balboa, Republic of Panama.; Department of Geology and Geophysics, Texas A&M University, College Station, TX 77843, USA.

The formation of the Isthmus of Panama stands as one of the greatest natural events of the Cenozoic, driving profound biotic transformations on land and in the oceans. Some recent studies suggest that the Isthmus formed many millions of years earlier than the widely recognized age of approximately 3 million years ago (Ma), a result that if true would revolutionize our understanding of environmental, ecological, and evolutionary change across the Americas. To bring clarity to the question of when the Isthmus of Panama formed, we provide an exhaustive review and reanalysis of geological, paleontological, and molecular records. These independent lines of evidence converge upon a cohesive narrative of gradually emerging land and constricting seaways, with formation of the Isthmus of Panama sensu stricto around 2.8 Ma. The evidence used to support an older isthmus is inconclusive, and we caution against the uncritical acceptance of an isthmus before the Pliocene.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1126/sciadv.1600883DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4988774PMC
August 2016

New Age of Fishes initiated by the Cretaceous-Paleogene mass extinction.

Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A 2015 Jul 29;112(28):8537-42. Epub 2015 Jun 29.

Scripps Institution of Oceanography, University of California, San Diego, La Jolla, CA 92037.

Ray-finned fishes (Actinopterygii) comprise nearly half of all modern vertebrate diversity, and are an ecologically and numerically dominant megafauna in most aquatic environments. Crown teleost fishes diversified relatively recently, during the Late Cretaceous and early Paleogene, although the exact timing and cause of their radiation and rise to ecological dominance is poorly constrained. Here we use microfossil teeth and shark dermal scales (ichthyoliths) preserved in deep-sea sediments to study the changes in the pelagic fish community in the latest Cretaceous and early Paleogene. We find that the Cretaceous-Paleogene (K/Pg) extinction event marked a profound change in the structure of ichthyolith communities around the globe: Whereas shark denticles outnumber ray-finned fish teeth in Cretaceous deep-sea sediments around the world, there is a dramatic increase in the proportion of ray-finned fish teeth to shark denticles in the Paleocene. There is also an increase in size and numerical abundance of ray-finned fish teeth at the boundary. These changes are sustained through at least the first 24 million years of the Cenozoic. This new fish community structure began at the K/Pg mass extinction, suggesting the extinction event played an important role in initiating the modern "age of fishes."
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1073/pnas.1504985112DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4507219PMC
July 2015

Sliding rocks on Racetrack Playa, Death Valley National Park: first observation of rocks in motion.

PLoS One 2014 27;9(8):e105948. Epub 2014 Aug 27.

Department of Physics, Boise State University, Boise, Idaho, United States of America.

The engraved trails of rocks on the nearly flat, dry mud surface of Racetrack Playa, Death Valley National Park, have excited speculation about the movement mechanism since the 1940s. Rock movement has been variously attributed to high winds, liquid water, ice, or ice flotation, but has not been previously observed in action. We recorded the first direct scientific observation of rock movements using GPS-instrumented rocks and photography, in conjunction with a weather station and time-lapse cameras. The largest observed rock movement involved > 60 rocks on December 20, 2013 and some instrumented rocks moved up to 224 m between December 2013 and January 2014 in multiple move events. In contrast with previous hypotheses of powerful winds or thick ice floating rocks off the playa surface, the process of rock movement that we have observed occurs when the thin, 3 to 6 mm, "windowpane" ice sheet covering the playa pool begins to melt in late morning sun and breaks up under light winds of -4-5 m/s. Floating ice panels 10 s of meters in size push multiple rocks at low speeds of 2-5 m/min. along trajectories determined by the direction and velocity of the wind as well as that of the water flowing under the ice.
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http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0105948PLOS
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4146553PMC
November 2015

Long distance dispersal and connectivity in amphi-Atlantic corals at regional and basin scales.

PLoS One 2011 22;6(7):e22298. Epub 2011 Jul 22.

Laboratory of Artificial and Natural Evolution, University of Geneva, Geneva, Switzerland.

Among Atlantic scleractinian corals, species diversity is highest in the Caribbean, but low diversity and high endemism are observed in various peripheral populations in central and eastern Atlantic islands and along the coasts of Brazil and West Africa. The degree of connectivity between these distantly separated populations is of interest because it provides insight into processes at both evolutionary and ecological time scales, such as speciation, recruitment dynamics and the persistence of coral populations. To assess connectivity in broadly distributed coral species of the Atlantic, DNA sequence data from two nuclear markers were obtained for six coral species spanning their distributional ranges. At basin-wide scales, significant differentiation was generally observed among populations in the Caribbean, Brazil and West Africa. Concordance of patterns in connectivity among co-distributed taxa indicates that extrinsic barriers, such as the Amazon freshwater plume or long stretches of open ocean, restrict dispersal of coral larvae from region to region. Within regions, dispersal ability appears to be influenced by aspects of reproduction and life history. Two broadcasting species, Siderastrea siderea and Montastraea cavernosa, were able to maintain gene flow among populations separated by as much as 1,200 km along the coast of Brazil. In contrast, brooding species, such as Favia gravida and Siderastrea radians, had more restricted gene flow along the Brazilian coast.
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http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0022298PLOS
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3142122PMC
December 2011

Eocene global warming events driven by ventilation of oceanic dissolved organic carbon.

Nature 2011 Mar;471(7338):349-52

Scripps Institution of Oceanography, University of California, San Diego, La Jolla, California 92093, USA.

'Hyperthermals' are intervals of rapid, pronounced global warming known from six episodes within the Palaeocene and Eocene epochs (∼65-34 million years (Myr) ago). The most extreme hyperthermal was the ∼170 thousand year (kyr) interval of 5-7 °C global warming during the Palaeocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum (PETM, 56 Myr ago). The PETM is widely attributed to massive release of greenhouse gases from buried sedimentary carbon reservoirs, and other, comparatively modest, hyperthermals have also been linked to the release of sedimentary carbon. Here we show, using new 2.4-Myr-long Eocene deep ocean records, that the comparatively modest hyperthermals are much more numerous than previously documented, paced by the eccentricity of Earth's orbit and have shorter durations (∼40 kyr) and more rapid recovery phases than the PETM. These findings point to the operation of fundamentally different forcing and feedback mechanisms than for the PETM, involving redistribution of carbon among Earth's readily exchangeable surface reservoirs rather than carbon exhumation from, and subsequent burial back into, the sedimentary reservoir. Specifically, we interpret our records to indicate repeated, large-scale releases of dissolved organic carbon (at least 1,600 gigatonnes) from the ocean by ventilation (strengthened oxidation) of the ocean interior. The rapid recovery of the carbon cycle following each Eocene hyperthermal strongly suggests that carbon was re-sequestered by the ocean, rather than the much slower process of silicate rock weathering proposed for the PETM. Our findings suggest that these pronounced climate warming events were driven not by repeated releases of carbon from buried sedimentary sources, but, rather, by patterns of surficial carbon redistribution familiar from younger intervals of Earth history.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/nature09826DOI Listing
March 2011

The Chicxulub asteroid impact and mass extinction at the Cretaceous-Paleogene boundary.

Science 2010 Mar;327(5970):1214-8

GeoZentrum Nordbayern, Universität Erlangen-Nürnberg, Schlossgarten 5, D-91054 Erlangen, Germany.

The Cretaceous-Paleogene boundary approximately 65.5 million years ago marks one of the three largest mass extinctions in the past 500 million years. The extinction event coincided with a large asteroid impact at Chicxulub, Mexico, and occurred within the time of Deccan flood basalt volcanism in India. Here, we synthesize records of the global stratigraphy across this boundary to assess the proposed causes of the mass extinction. Notably, a single ejecta-rich deposit compositionally linked to the Chicxulub impact is globally distributed at the Cretaceous-Paleogene boundary. The temporal match between the ejecta layer and the onset of the extinctions and the agreement of ecological patterns in the fossil record with modeled environmental perturbations (for example, darkness and cooling) lead us to conclude that the Chicxulub impact triggered the mass extinction.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1126/science.1177265DOI Listing
March 2010

Evidence for abrupt speciation in a classic case of gradual evolution.

Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A 2009 Dec 8;106(50):21224-9. Epub 2009 Dec 8.

Scripps Institution of Oceanography, University of California at San Diego, La Jolla, CA 92093, USA.

In contrast with speciation in terrestrial organisms, marine plankton frequently display gradual morphological change without lineage division (e.g., phyletic gradualism or gradual evolution), which has raised the possibility that a different mode of evolution dominates within pelagic environments. Here, we reexamine a classic case of putative gradual evolution within the Globorotalia plesiotumida-G. tumida lineage of planktonic foraminifera, and find both compelling evidence for the existence of a third cryptic species during the speciation event and the abrupt evolution of the descendant G. tumida. The third morphotype, not recognized in previous analyses, differs in shape and coiling direction from its ancestor, G. plesiotumida. This species dominates the globorotaliid population for 414,000 years just before the appearance of G. tumida. The first population of the descendant, G. tumida, evolves abruptly within a 44,000-year interval. A combination of morphological data and biostratigraphic evidence suggests that G. tumida evolved by cladogenesis. Our findings provide an unexpected twist on one of the best-documented cases of within-lineage phyletic gradualism and, in doing so, revisit the limitations and promise of the study of speciation in the fossil record.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1073/pnas.0902887106DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2795541PMC
December 2009

Century-scale records of land-based activities recorded in Mesoamerican coral cores.

Mar Pollut Bull 2009 Dec 22;58(12):1835-42. Epub 2009 Aug 22.

Scripps Institution of Oceanography, University of California, San Diego, 9500 Gilman Dr. 0208, La Jolla, CA 92093, USA.

The Mesoamerican Reef, the second-largest barrier reef in the world, is located in the western Caribbean Sea off the coasts of Mexico, Belize, Guatemala, and Honduras. Particularly in the south, the surrounding watersheds are steep and the climate is extremely wet. With development and agricultural expansion, the potential for negative impacts to the reef from land-based runoff becomes high. We constructed annually resolved century-scale records of metal/calcium ratios in coral skeletons collected from four sites experiencing a gradient of land-based runoff. Our proxy data indicate that runoff onto the reef has increased relatively steadily over time at all sites, consistent with land use trends from historical records. Sediment supply to the reef is greater in the south, and these more exposed reefs will probably benefit most immediately from management that targets runoff reduction. However, because runoff at all sites is steadily increasing, even distal sites will benefit from watershed management.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.marpolbul.2009.07.024DOI Listing
December 2009

Local stressors reduce coral resilience to bleaching.

PLoS One 2009 Jul 22;4(7):e6324. Epub 2009 Jul 22.

Scripps Institution of Oceanography, University of California San Diego, La Jolla, CA, USA.

Coral bleaching, during which corals lose their symbiotic dinoflagellates, typically corresponds with periods of intense heat stress, and appears to be increasing in frequency and geographic extent as the climate warms. A fundamental question in coral reef ecology is whether chronic local stress reduces coral resistance and resilience from episodic stress such as bleaching, or alternatively promotes acclimatization, potentially increasing resistance and resilience. Here we show that following a major bleaching event, Montastraea faveolata coral growth rates at sites with higher local anthropogenic stressors remained suppressed for at least 8 years, while coral growth rates at sites with lower stress recovered in 2-3 years. Instead of promoting acclimatization, our data indicate that background stress reduces coral fitness and resilience to episodic events. We also suggest that reducing chronic stress through local coral reef management efforts may increase coral resilience to global climate change.
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http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0006324PLOS
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2708352PMC
July 2009

Isotopic evidence for glaciation during the Cretaceous supergreenhouse.

Science 2008 Jan;319(5860):189-92

Scripps Institution of Oceanography, University of California, San Diego, Geosciences Research Division, 9500 Gilman Drive, La Jolla, CA 92093-0244, USA.

The Turonian (93.5 to 89.3 million years ago) was one of the warmest periods of the Phanerozoic eon, with tropical sea surface temperatures over 35 degrees C. High-amplitude sea-level changes and positive delta18O excursions in marine limestones suggest that glaciation events may have punctuated this episode of extreme warmth. New delta18O data from the tropical Atlantic show synchronous shifts approximately 91.2 million years ago for both the surface and deep ocean that are consistent with an approximately 200,000-year period of glaciation, with ice sheets of about half the size of the modern Antarctic ice cap. Even the prevailing supergreenhouse climate was not a barrier to the formation of large ice sheets, calling into question the common assumption that the poles were always ice-free during past periods of intense global warming.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1126/science.1148777DOI Listing
January 2008

The heartbeat of the Oligocene climate system.

Science 2006 Dec;314(5807):1894-8

National Oceanography Centre, Southampton, School of Ocean and Earth Science, European Way, Southampton SO14 3ZH, UK.

A 13-million-year continuous record of Oligocene climate from the equatorial Pacific reveals a pronounced "heartbeat" in the global carbon cycle and periodicity of glaciations. This heartbeat consists of 405,000-, 127,000-, and 96,000-year eccentricity cycles and 1.2-million-year obliquity cycles in periodically recurring glacial and carbon cycle events. That climate system response to intricate orbital variations suggests a fundamental interaction of the carbon cycle, solar forcing, and glacial events. Box modeling shows that the interaction of the carbon cycle and solar forcing modulates deep ocean acidity as well as the production and burial of global biomass. The pronounced 405,000-year eccentricity cycle is amplified by the long residence time of carbon in the oceans.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1126/science.1133822DOI Listing
December 2006

Abrupt reversal in ocean overturning during the Palaeocene/Eocene warm period.

Nature 2006 Jan;439(7072):60-3

Scripps Institution of Oceanography, University of California, San Diego, La Jolla, California 92092-0208, USA.

An exceptional analogue for the study of the causes and consequences of global warming occurs at the Palaeocene/Eocene Thermal Maximum, 55 million years ago. A rapid rise of global temperatures during this event accompanied turnovers in both marine and terrestrial biota, as well as significant changes in ocean chemistry and circulation. Here we present evidence for an abrupt shift in deep-ocean circulation using carbon isotope records from fourteen sites. These records indicate that deep-ocean circulation patterns changed from Southern Hemisphere overturning to Northern Hemisphere overturning at the start of the Palaeocene/Eocene Thermal Maximum. This shift in the location of deep-water formation persisted for at least 40,000 years, but eventually recovered to original circulation patterns. These results corroborate climate model inferences that a shift in deep-ocean circulation would deliver relatively warmer waters to the deep sea, thus producing further warming. Greenhouse conditions can thus initiate abrupt deep-ocean circulation changes in less than a few thousand years, but may have lasting effects; in this case taking 100,000 years to revert to background conditions.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/nature04386DOI Listing
January 2006