Ancient sedimentary DNA reveals past tsunami deposits

  • publication
  • 01-11-2016

Szczuciński W, Pawłowska J, Lejzerowicz F, Nishimurad Y, Kokociński M, Majewski W, Nakamura Y, Pawlowski J.. Marine Geology 381:29-33

Palaeotsunami deposits are the primary sources of information on past large tsunami events and thereby are critical for earthquake and tsunami hazard assessments. They usually form sandy layers preserved in coastal sediments and contain indicators of marine origins, such as microfossils (e.g., diatoms and foraminifera) and geochemical signals of saltwater. However, these indicators are often modified or erased with time. To address this issue, we present the first application of a palaeogenetic approach to a series of up to approximately 2000-year-old sandy palaeotsunami deposits from a coastal wetland on Hokkaido Island (Japan). We found the DNA of marine foraminiferal species preserved in palaeotsunami deposits, in the absence of foraminifera tests. The recovery and analysis of the ancient sedimentary DNA of marine organisms preserved in coastal zone sediments for millennia represents a new and promising tool for the identification of past tsunamis.

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