The Holocene Pulleniatina Minimum Event (PME) is characterized by a very low abundance of the planktonic foraminifer Pulleniatina obliquiloculata between ∼ 4.5 and 3 ka. The PME occurs widely in the Okinawa Trough and the South China Sea, and can be correlated throughout this area; it has been related to variability in the Kuroshio current. To further explore the nature of the PME, we studied cores obtained from the southern Okinawa Trough and the upper reaches of the Kuroshio current. Faunal census data indicate that all cores record the PME between ∼ 4.5 and ∼ 3 ka. The relative abundance of Neogloboquadrina dutertrei is negatively correlated to that of P. obliquiloculata in the southern Okinawa Trough, but not in the sites at the upper reaches. Mg/Ca and δ18O measurements on Globigerinoides ruber shells from the southern Okinawa Trough indicate that there was no change in sea surface temperature or sea surface salinity during the PME. The vertical structure of the water column as reconstructed by multispecies δ18O and δ13C profiles shows no consistent anomalies in the southern Okinawa Trough and western Philippine Sea during the PME. These observations suggest that: (1) the PME was not restricted to marginal seas, but widespread in the western North Pacific. (2) The high abundance of N. dutertrei during the PME in the Okinawa Trough may be a result of higher food-availability in the absence of P. obliquiloculata. (3) No distinctive, consistent anomalies in the paleoceanographic proxies are associated with the PME, implying there were no changes in hydrography and productivity. The absence of a linkage between faunal variation and paleoceanographic proxies indicates that we do not yet understand what causes changes in planktonic foraminiferal assemblages. This lack of understanding implies that we cannot always trust fauna-based paleothermometry at millennial timescales.
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