Advertisement

An Eldorado for Paleontologists: The Cenozoic Seeps of Western Washington State, USA

  • Steffen Kiel
Chapter
Part of the Topics in Geobiology book series (TGBI, volume 33)

Abstract

Most seep communities occur in deep water and it requires certain geologic processes – particularly their preservation within carbonates and their uplift above sea-level – before paleontologists can study them. Just like their modern analogs fossil seeps are highly localized and finding them requires walking through endless meters of strata that are usually barren of megafossils. The outcrop situation in western Washington is far from being ideal because most of the area is covered in thick forest. Many seep deposits are exposed along, sometimes even in, river beds Plate 31 and can be sampled only at certain times of the year when water levels are low. Sites at coastal outcrops may only be reached by kayak or canoe, during low tide or only early in the year before they are covered by algal growth. Nevertheless, extensive searching over the past 20 years produced seep fossils that are unrivaled world-wide in their diversity and the quality of their preservation Plate 32, and they are now probably the best-studied fossil seep faunas on Earth. A particular appeal is the fact that the seep-bearing sediment also revealed diverse whale-fall (Squires et al. 1991; Goedert et al. 1995) and wood-fall communities (Lindberg and Hedegaard 1996; Kiel and Goedert 2006b) so that evolutionary interactions between these ecosystems can be traced through nearly 45 million years of time (e.g., Kiel and Goedert 2006a). Furthermore, the seep carbonates preserve a wide range of molecular fossils (biomarkers) that reveal past fluid compositions, and the biochemical processes and microbial consortia involved in the precipitation of the carbonates, even on very small spatial scales (Peckmann et al. 2002, 2003; Goedert et al. 2003; Hoffmann 2006).

Keywords

Middle Eocene Late Eocene North American Plate Worm Tube Molecular Fossil 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.

Notes

Acknowledgments

I am grateful to Jim Goedert for introducing me to the deep-water faunas of western Washington, for guiding me there on several field trips, and for providing insights, unpublished data, images, and constructive criticism for this chapter. I would also like to thank Jörn Peckmann for images.

References

  1. Amano K, Kiel S (2007) Fossil vesicomyid bivalves from the North Pacific region. Veliger 49:270–293Google Scholar
  2. Babcock RS, Burmester RF, Engebretson DC, Warnock AC et al (1992) A rifted margin origin for the Crescent basalts and related rocks in the northern Coast Range volcanic province, Washington and British Columbia. J Geophys Res 97:6799–6821CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Baco AR, Rowden AA, Levin LA, Smith CR et al (2010) Initial characterization of cold seep faunal communities on the New Zealand Hikurangi margin. Mar Geol 272:251–259CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Brandon MT, Calderwood AR (1990) High-pressure metamorphism and uplift of the Olympic subduction complex. Geology 18:1252–1255CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Brandon MT, Vance JA (1992) Tectonic evolution of the Cenozoic Olympic subduction complex, Washington State, as deduced from fission track ages for detrital zircons. Am J Sci 292:565–636CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Campbell KA (1992) Recognition of a Mio-Pliocene cold seep setting from the Northeast Pacific Convergent Margin, Washington, U.S.A. Palaios 7:422–433CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Campbell KA (2006) Hydrocarbon seep and hydrothermal vent paleoenvironments and paleontology: past developments and future research directions. Palaeogeogr Palaeoclimatol Palaeoecol 232:362–407CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Campbell KA, Bottjer DJ (1993) Fossil cold seeps. Natl Geogr Res Explor 9:326–343Google Scholar
  9. Corliss JB, Dymond J, Gordon LI, Edmond JM et al (1979) Submarine thermal springs on the Galápagos Rift. Science 203:1073–1083CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Danner WR (1966) Limestone resources of western Washington. State Wash Div Mines Geol Bull 52:1–474Google Scholar
  11. Goedert JL, Benham SR (2003) Biogeochemical processes at ancient methane seeps: the Bear River site in southwestern Washington. Geol Soc Am Field Guide 4:201–208Google Scholar
  12. Goedert JL, Campbell KA (1995) An Early Oligocene chemosynthetic community from the Makah Formation, northwestern Olympic Peninsula, Washington. Veliger 38:22–29Google Scholar
  13. Goedert JL, Peckmann J (2005) Corals from deep-water methane-seep deposits in Paleogene strata of Western Oregon and Washington, U.S.A. In: Freiwald A, Roberts JM (eds) Cold-water corals and ecosystems. Springer, Berlin, Heidelberg, pp 27–40CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Goedert JL, Squires RL (1990) Eocene deep-sea communities in localized limestones formed by subduction-related methane seeps, southwestern Washington. Geology 18:1182–1185CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Goedert JL, Squires RL (1993) First Oligocene record of Calyptogena (Bivalvia: Vesicomyidae). Veliger 36:72–77Google Scholar
  16. Goedert JL, Squires RL, Barnes LG (1995) Paleoecology of whale-fall habitats from deep-water Oligocene rocks, Olympic Peninsula, Washington State. Palaeogeogr Palaeoclimatol Palaeoecol 118:151–158CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Goedert JL, Peckmann J, Reitner J (2000) Worm tubes in an allochthonous cold-seep carbonate from lower Oligocene rocks of western Washington. J Paleontol 74:992–999CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Goedert JL, Thiel V, Schmale O, Rau WW et al (2003) The late Eocene ‘Whiskey Creek’ ­methane-seep deposit (western Washington State) Part I: geology, palaeontology, and molecular geobiology. Facies 48:223–240CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Greinert J, Bohrmann G, Suess E (2001) Gas hydrate-associated carbonates and methane-venting at Hydrate Ridge: classification, distribution, and origin of authigenic lithologies. In: Paull CK, Dillon WP (eds) Natural gas hydrates: occurrence, distribution, and detection. American Geophysical Union, Washington, DC, pp 99–113CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Harvey JL (1959) Geologic reconnaissance, S. W. Olympic Peninsula. Master’s thesis, University of Washington, Seattle, WAGoogle Scholar
  21. Hoffmann V-ERK (2006) Biosignaturen in känozoischen Cold-Seeps des Pazifischen Nordwestens der USA. Diplom thesis, Georg-August-Universität, GöttingenGoogle Scholar
  22. Jenkins RG, Kaim A, Hikida Y, Tanabe K (2007) Methane-flux-dependent lateral faunal changes in a Late Cretaceous chemosymbiotic assemblage from the Nakagawa area of Hokkaido, Japan. Geobiology 5:127–139CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Kiel S (2006) New records and species of mollusks from Tertiary cold-seep carbonates in Washington State, USA. J Paleontol 80:121–137CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Kiel S (2008a) Fossil evidence for micro- and macrofaunal utilization of large nekton-falls: examples from early Cenozoic deep-water sediments in Washington State, USA. Palaeogeogr Palaeoclimatol Palaeoecol 267:161–174CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Kiel S (2008b) An unusual new gastropod genus from an Eocene hydrocarbon seep in Washington State, USA. J Paleontol 82:188–191CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Kiel S (2010) On the potential generality of depth-related ecologic structure in cold-seep communities: Cenozoic and Mesozoic examples. Palaeogeogr Palaeoclimatol Palaeoecol 295:245–257Google Scholar
  27. Kiel S, Goedert JL (2006a) Deep-sea food bonanzas: early Cenozoic whale-fall communities resemble wood-fall rather than seep communities. Proc R Soc B 273:2625–2631CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Kiel S, Goedert JL (2006b) A wood-fall association from Late Eocene deep-water sediments of Washington State, USA. Palaios 21:548–556CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Kiel S, Goedert JL (2007) Six new mollusk species associated with biogenic substrates in Cenozoic deep-water sediments in Washington State, USA. Acta Palaeontol Pol 52:41–52Google Scholar
  30. Kiel S, Campbell KA, Gaillard C (2010) New and little known mollusks from ancient chemosynthetic environments. Zootaxa 2390:26–48Google Scholar
  31. Levin LA, Mendoza GF (2007) Community structure and nutrition of deep methane-seep macrobenthos from the North Pacific (Aleutian) Margin and the Gulf of Mexico (Florida Escarpment). Mar Ecol 28:131–151CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Lindberg DR, Hedegaard C (1996) A deep water patellogastropod from Oligocene water-logged wood of Washington State, USA (Acmaeoidea: Pectinodonta). J Mollus Stud 62:299–314CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Nesbitt EA, Campbell KA, Goedert JL (1994) Paleogene cold seeps and macrinvertebrate faunas in a forearc sequence of Oregon and Washington. In: Swanson DA, Haugerud RA (eds) Geologic field trips in the Pacific Northwest. Geological Society of America, Boulder, pp 1–11Google Scholar
  34. Olu-Le Roy K, Caprais J-C, Fifis A, Fabri M-C et al (2007) Cold-seep assemblages on a giant pockmark off West Africa: spatial patterns and environmental control. Mar Ecol 28:115–130CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Paull CK, Hecker B, Commeau R, Freeman-Lynde RP et al (1984) Biological communities at the Florida Escarpment resemble hydrothermal vent taxa. Science 226:965–967CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Peckmann J, Reimer A, Luth U, Luth C et al (2001) Methane-derived carbonates and authigenic pyrite from the northwestern Black Sea. Mar Geol 177:129–150CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Peckmann J, Goedert JL, Thiel V, Michaelis W et al (2002) A comprehensive approach to the study of methane-seep deposits from the Lincoln Creek Formation, western Washington State, USA. Sedimentology 49:855–873CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Peckmann J, Goedert JL, Heinrichs T, Hoefs J et al (2003) The late Eocene ‘Whiskey Creek’ methane-seep deposit (western Washington State) Part II: petrology, stable isotopes, and biogeochemistry. Facies 48:241–254CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Peckmann J, Senowbari-Daryan B, Birgel D, Goedert JL (2007) The crustacean ichnofossil Palaxius associated with callianassid body fossils in an Eocene methane-seep limestone, Humptulips Formation, Olympic Peninsula, Washington. Lethaia 40:273–280CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Prothero DR (2001) Chronostratigraphic calibrations of the Pacific Coast Cenozoic: a summary. In: Prothero DR (ed) Magnetic stratigraphy of the Pacific coast Cenozoic. The Pacific Section SEPM, Book 91, Fullerton. Society for Sedimentary Geology pp 377–394Google Scholar
  41. Rigby JK, Goedert JL (1996) Fossil sponges from a localized cold-seep limestone in Oligocene rocks of the Olympic peninsula, Washington. J Paleont 70:900–908Google Scholar
  42. Rigby JK, Jenkins DE (1983) The Tertiary sponges Aphrocallistes and Eurete from western Washington and Oregon. Nat Hist Mus LA County Contrib Sci 344:1–13Google Scholar
  43. Sahling H, Rickert D, Lee RW, Linke P et al (2002) Macrofaunal community structure and sulfide flux at gas hydrate deposits from the Cascadia convergent margin, NE Pacific. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 231:121–138CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Schweitzer CE, Feldmann RM (2008) New Eocene hydrocarbon seep decapod crustacean (Anomura: Galatheidae: Shinkaiinae) and its paleobiology. J Paleontol 82:1021–1029CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Snavely PDJ, MacLeod NS (1974) Yachats Basalt-An upper Eocene differentiated volcanic sequence in the Oregon Coast range. US Geol Surv J Res 2:395–403Google Scholar
  46. Squires RL (1995) First fossil species of the chemosynthetic-community gastropod Provanna: localized cold-seep limestones in Upper Eocene and Oligocene rocks, Washington. Veliger 38:30–36Google Scholar
  47. Squires RL, Goedert JL (1991) New Late Eocene Mollusks from localized limestone deposits formed by subduction-related methane seeps, southwestern Washington. J Paleontol 65:412–416Google Scholar
  48. Squires RL, Goedert JL, Barnes LG (1991) Whale carcasses. Nature 349:574CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Stewart RJ, Brandon MT (2004) Detrital-zircon fission-track ages for the “Hoh Formation”: implications for late Cenozoic evolution of the Cascadia subduction wedge. Geol Soc Am Bull 116:60–75CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. Thurber AR, Kröger K, Neiraa C, Wiklund H et al (2009) Stable isotope signatures and methane use by New Zealand cold seep benthos. Mar Geol 272:260–269CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. Vacelet J, Boury-Esnault N, Fiala-Médoni A, Fisher CR (1995) A methanotrophic carnivorous sponge. Nature 377:296CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  52. Warén A, Bouchet P (2001) Gastropoda and Monoplacophora from hydrothermal vents and seeps; new taxa and records. Veliger 44:116–231Google Scholar
  53. Weaver CE (1937) Tertiary stratigraphy of western Washington and northwestern Oregon. U Wash Publ Geol 4:1–266Google Scholar
  54. Weaver CE (1942) Paleontology of the marine Tertiary formations of Oregon and Washington. U Wash Publ Geol 5:1–789Google Scholar
  55. Wells RE (1989) Geologic map of the Cape Disappointment – Naselle River area, Pacific and Wahkiakum Counties, Washington. U S Geological Survey, Miscellaneous Investigations Map, p I–1832Google Scholar
  56. Wolfe EW, McKee EH (1968) Geology of the Grays River Quadrangle, Wahkiakum and Pacific counties, Washington. State of Washington Department of Natural Resources, Division of Mines and Geology, Geologic Map, p GM–4Google Scholar
  57. Wolfe EW, McKee EH (1972) Sedimentary and igneous rocks of the Grays River quadrangle, Washington. US Geol Surv Bull 1335:1–70Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Institut für GeowissenschaftenChristian-Albrechts-UniversitätKielGermany

Personalised recommendations