Neogene Palaeoceanographic and Palaeoclimatic Events Inferred from Palynological Data: Cape Basin Off South Africa, ODP Leg 175


Sites 1085, 1086 and 1087 were drilled off South Africa during Ocean Drilling Program (ODP) Leg 175 to investigate the Benguela Current System. While previous studies have focused on reconstructing the Neogene palaeoceanographic and palaeoclimatic history of these sites, palynology has been largely ignored, except for the Late Pliocene and Quaternary. This study presents palynological data from the upper Middle Miocene to lower Upper Pliocene sediments in Holes 1085A, 1086A and 1087C that provide complementary information about the history of the area. Abundant and diverse marine palynomorphs (mainly dinoflagellate cysts), rare spores and pollen, and dispersed organic matter have been recovered. Multivariate statistical analysis of dispersed organic matter identified three palynofacies assemblages (A, B, C) in the most continuous hole (1085A), and they were defined primarily by amorphous organic matter (AOM), and to a lesser extent black debris, structured phytoclasts, degraded phytoclasts, and marine palynomorphs. Ecostratigraphic interpretation based on dinoflagellate cyst, spore-pollen and palynofacies data allowed us to identify several palaeoceanographic and palaeoclimatic signals. First, the late Middle Miocene was subtropical, and sediments contained the highest percentages of land-derived organic matter, even though they are rich in AOM (palynofacies assemblage A). Second, the Late Miocene was cool-temperate and characterized by periods of intensified upwelling, increase in productivity, abundant and diverse oceanic dinoflagellate cysts, and the highest percentages of AOM (palynofacies assemblage C). Third, the Early to early Late Pliocene was warm-temperate with some dry intervals (increase in grass pollen) and intensified upwelling. Fourth, the Neogene "carbonate crash" identified in other southern oceans was recognized in two palynofacies a samples in Hole 1085A that are nearly barren of dinoflagellate cysts: one Middle Miocene sample (590 mbsf, 13.62 Ma) and one Upper Miocene sample (355 mbsf, 6.5 Ma). Finally, the extremely low percentages of pollen suggest sparse vegetation on the adjacent landmass, and Namib desert conditions were already in existence during the late Middle Miocene.


Geosciences and Geological and Petroleum Engineering

Keywords and Phrases

Neogene; Ocean Drilling Program Leg 175; Palaeoceanography; Palaeoclimate; Palynofacies; Palynology; Atlantic Ocean; Cape Basin; Oceanic Regions; World; Bacteria (Microorganisms); Dinophyceae; Palynology

Geographic Coverage

South Africa

International Standard Serial Number (ISSN)


Document Type

Article - Journal

Document Version


File Type





© 2005 Elsevier, All rights reserved.

Publication Date

18 Apr 2005