Cold-seep fossil macrofaunal assemblages from Vestnesa Ridge, eastern Fram Strait, during the past 45 000 years

  • Elsebeth Thomsen The Arctic University Museum of Norway, UiT—The Arctic University of Norway, Tromsø, Norway
  • Tine Lander Rasmussen Centre for Arctic Gas Hydrate, Environment and Climate, Department of Geosciences, UiT—The Arctic University of Norway, Tromsø, Norway
  • Kamila Sztybor Akvaplan-niva AS, Fram Centre, Tromsø, Norway
  • Nils-Martin Hanken Department of Geosciences, UiT—The Arctic University of Norway, Tromsø, Norway; Department of Geosciences, University of Oslo, Oslo, Norway
  • Ole Secher Tendal Natural History Museum of Denmark, Zoological Museum, Copenhagen Ø, Denmark
  • Alfred Uchman Jagiellonian University, Institute of Geological Sciences, Kraków, Poland
Keywords: Methane release, macrofossils, trace fossils, foraminifera, mid-late Weichselian glacial to Holocene, Svalbard margin


Four cores from Vestnesa Ridge on the western Svalbard margin from water depth of 1200 m have been studied. The Vestnesa Ridge is known for the presence of numerous pockmarks and active methane gas seepage is often observed in the form of acoustic gas flares. Three of the cores were collected from a pockmark with active seepage of methane and one core was taken just outside the seepage area for comparison. The cores show a range of influence from methane from no seepage (control core), moderate seepage, strong seepage to very strong seepage. All cores have been analyzed for the distribution of macrofossils, trace fossils, planktic foraminifera, stable isotopes, geochemistry and sedimentology. The main purpose of the study is to improve knowledge about the fossil macrofauna and past methane emissions in the area. The results show a major difference between the fauna recovered from cores taken inside a pockmark with chemosymbiotic bivalves and in some cases with a rich macrofauna  and from the core recovered outside the pockmark that contained no macrofauna. The faunal relationships with the sedimentary environments confirm a close connection between the macrofauna and the presence/absence of cold-seepage, particularly seen in the occurrence of chemosymbiotic bivalves Archivesica arctica, Isorropodon nyeggaensis, potentially chemosymbiotic Rhacothyas kolgae and polychaetes. A barren zone in the core that was taken from the deepest part of the pockmark may indicate that a blow-out took place in the late glacial and the deglaciation into the early Holocene at c. 21,000–9000 years.


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How to Cite
Thomsen, E., Lander Rasmussen, T., Sztybor, K., Hanken, N.-M., Secher Tendal, O., & Uchman, A. (2019). Cold-seep fossil macrofaunal assemblages from Vestnesa Ridge, eastern Fram Strait, during the past 45 000 years. Polar Research, 38.
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