The shutdown of an anoxic giant: Magnetostratigraphic dating of the end of the Maikop Sea

D. V. Palcu*, S. V. Popov, L. A. Golovina, K. F. Kuiper, S. Liu, W. Krijgsman

*Corresponding author for this work

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Paratethys, the lost sea of central Eurasia, was an anoxic giant during Oligocene – early Miocene (Maikop Series) times. With a size matching the modern-day Mediterranean Sea and a history of anoxic conditions that lasted for over 20 Myrs, the eastern part of this realm (Black Sea-Caspian Sea domain) holds key records for understanding the build-up, maintenance and collapse of anoxia in marginal seas. Here, we show that the collapse of anoxic Maikop conditions was caused by middle Miocene paleogeographic changes in the Paratethys gateway configuration, when a mid-Langhian (Badenian-Tarkhanian) transgression flooded and oxygenated the Eastern Paratethys. We present an integrated magneto-biostratigraphic framework for the early Middle Miocene (Tarkhanian-Chokrakian-Karaganian regional stages) of the Eastern Paratethys and date the lithological transition from anoxic black shales of the Maikop Series to fossiliferous marine marls and limestones of the regional Tarkhanian stage. For this purpose, we selected two long and time-equivalent sedimentary successions, exposed along the Belaya and the Pshekha rivers, in the Maikop type area in Ciscaucasia (southern Russia). We show that a significant but short marine incursion took place during the Tarkhanian, ending the long-lasting Maikop anoxia of the basin. Our magnetostratigraphic results reveal coherent polarity patterns, which allow a straightforward correlation with the time interval 15–12 Ma of the Geomagnetic Polarity Time Scale. The Tarkhanian flooding occurred during a relatively short normal polarity interval that correlates with C5Bn, resulting in an age of 14.85 Ma. The regional Tarkhanian/Chokrakian stage boundary is located within C5ADn at an age of 14.75 Ma and the Chokrakian/Karaganian boundary is tentatively correlated with C5ACn and an age of 13.9–13.8 Ma. Our new Tarkhanian flooding age reveals a paleogeographic scenario that is different from many previous reconstructions. Instead of envisaging marine connections to the Indian Ocean, we show that major changes in connectivity between the Eastern and Central Paratethys seas have caused the influx of marine waters during the Tarkhanian. An increase in marine connectivity with the Mediterranean during a short episode of rapid sea-level rise triggered mixing and ended the widespread anoxia in the Eastern Paratethys. The mixing episode was short-lived (~100 kyr) as the sea-level rise slowed down and connectivity degraded because of tectonic uplift in the gateway area.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)82-100
Number of pages19
JournalGondwana Research
Early online date4 Dec 2018
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2019


Special thanks go to Roel van Elsas for his guidance. Irina Patina, Vitaly, Marina Sladkovskaya, Alexandra Rylova, Andrey Popkov, Alexander Guzhov, Pavel Frolov, Jenea Filina, Jenea and Irina Nabokovy and Kubik are thanked for their help during the fieldwork. Special thanks go also to Eleonora Radionova, Irina Goncharova and Valery Trubikhin for their support. Special thanks go to the people from Fort Hoofddijk, “the Forters” for their technical help and collegial support. The micropaleontological research complies with the state theme AAAA-A17-117030610119-6 of the Geological Institute RAS. This work in field expedition was financially supported by the Russian Foundation for Basic Research ( 17-05-00047 and 16-05-01032 ) and by the Netherlands Geosciences Foundation (ALW) with support from the Netherlands Organization for Scientific Research (NWO) through the VICI grant of WK.

FundersFunder number
Netherlands Geosciences Foundation
Netherlands Organization for Scientific Research
Russian Foundation for Basic Research16-05-01032, 17-05-00047
Nederlandse Organisatie voor Wetenschappelijk Onderzoek


    • Anoxia
    • Biostratigraphy
    • Chokrakian
    • Karaganian
    • Magnetostratigraphy
    • Maikop
    • Marine flooding
    • Marine gateways
    • Middle Miocene
    • Paleogeography
    • Paratethys
    • Tarkhanian
    • Tectonic-eustatic interplay


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