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Does pyrite act as an important host for molybdenum in modern and ancient euxinic sediments?

journal contribution
posted on 2023-05-18, 07:58 authored by Chappaz, A, Lyons, TW, Gregory, DD, Reinhard, CT, Gill, BC, Li, C, Ross LargeRoss Large
Molybdenum (Mo) is a popular paleoproxy for tracking the spatiotemporal pattern of euxinic (anoxic and sulfidic) conditions in the ancient ocean, yet surprisingly little is known about the processes leading to its fixation under sulfidic conditions. Pyrite has been proposed to be the main host phase for Mo sequestration. To clarify the role played by pyrite, and thus to refine the utility of this paleoproxy, modern and ancient samples from six different study sites were analyzed, all representing euxinic conditions, using laser ablation-inductively coupled plasma-mass spectrometry (LA-ICP-MS). Although pyrite often shows substantial enrichments relative to average crust and even matrix samples of similar size, our results show that most of the Mo in euxinic muds and shales is found in the non-pyrite matrix (80–100%) and not in the pyrite grains (0–20%)—simply because the volume of matrix dominates the bulk sediments/rocks. A relationship between the percent of Mo hosted by pyrite and the sulfur isotope composition of that pyrite is observed and can be linked to post-depositional alteration. Specifically, the oldest, typically most altered samples, show the highest δ34S values because of limited sulfate availability at the time of their formation in the early ocean. In these old samples, the relatively small amount of Mo sequestered initially within pyrite is more likely to have been released to the matrix during the strong recrystallization overprints that these rocks have disproportionately suffered. Despite the universal importance of appreciable H2S availability during Mo uptake, we conclude that pyrite should be viewed as a nontrivial sink for Mo but clearly not the primary host in most euxinic shales and rather suggest that other burial pathways should be emphasized in future studies of the mechanisms of Mo sequestration in such settings.


Publication title

Geochimica et Cosmochimica Acta








School of Natural Sciences


Pergamon-Elsevier Science Ltd

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The Boulevard, Langford Lane, Kidlington, Oxford, England, Ox5 1Gb

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Copyright 2014 Elsevier

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