A chronology of Paleozoic sea-level changes

Science. 2008 Oct 3;322(5898):64-8. doi: 10.1126/science.1161648.


Sea levels have been determined for most of the Paleozoic Era (542 to 251 million years ago), but an integrated history of sea levels has remained unrealized. We reconstructed a history of sea-level fluctuations for the entire Paleozoic by using stratigraphic sections from pericratonic and cratonic basins. Evaluation of the timing and amplitude of individual sea-level events reveals that the magnitude of change is the most problematic to estimate accurately. The long-term sea level shows a gradual rise through the Cambrian, reaching a zenith in the Late Ordovician, then a short-lived but prominent withdrawal in response to Hirnantian glaciation. Subsequent but decreasingly substantial eustatic highs occurred in the mid-Silurian, near the Middle/Late Devonian boundary, and in the latest Carboniferous. Eustatic lows are recorded in the early Devonian, near the Mississippian/Pennsylvanian boundary, and in the Late Permian. One hundred and seventy-two eustatic events are documented for the Paleozoic, varying in magnitude from a few tens of meters to approximately 125 meters.