A stalactite record of four relative sea-level highstands during the Middle Pleistocene Transition

Paolo Stocchi*, Fabrizio Antonioli, Paolo Montagna, Fabrizio Pepe, Valeria Lo Presti, Antonio Caruso, Marta Corradino, Gino Dardanelli, Pietro Renda, Norbert Frank, Eric Douville, François Thil, Bas de Boer, Rosario Ruggieri, Rosanna Sciortino, Catherine Pierre

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Ice-sheet and sea-level fluctuations during the Early and Middle Pleistocene are as yet poorly understood. A stalactite from a karst cave in North West Sicily (Italy) provides the first evidence of four marine inundations that correspond to relative sea-level highstands at the time of the Middle Pleistocene Transition. The speleothem is located ∼97 m above mean sea level as result of Quaternary uplift. Its section reveals three marine hiatuses and a coral overgrowth that fixes the age of final marine ingression at 1.124 ± 0.2, thus making this speleothem the oldest stalactite with marine hiatuses ever studied to date. Scleractinian coral species witness light-limited conditions and water depth of 20–50 m. Integrating the coral-constrained depth with the geologically constrained uplift rate and an ensemble of RSL scenarios, we find that the age of the last marine ingression most likely coincides with Marine Isotope Stage 35 on the basis of a probabilistic assessment. Our findings are consistent with a significant Antarctic ice-sheet retreat.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)92-100
Number of pages9
JournalQuaternary Science Reviews
Publication statusPublished - 1 Oct 2017


We are thankful to David Richards, Christian Ohneiser and Enrico Di Stefano for their helpful comments. This work was partly financially supported by the grant “ Fondo Finalizzato alla Ricerca 2012/2013 ( CUP B71J12001450001 )” funded by the University of Palermo (Italy) . Bas de Boer is funded by NWO Earth and Life Sciences (ALW), project 863.15.019.

FundersFunder number
Nederlandse Organisatie voor Wetenschappelijk Onderzoek863.15.019
Università degli Studi di Palermo


    • Sr/Sr ages
    • Corals
    • Interglacial(s)
    • Pleistocene
    • Sea level changes
    • Speleothems
    • Stable isotopes
    • U-Th dating
    • Western Europe


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