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South Africa

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Southeast USA

Evidence of tilting of the U.S. coast

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South Africa

Accurate sea level markers

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Roe Plains, Australia

The team’s first expedition

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Researchers take advantage of a celestial collision

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New Zealand

Uplift exposes a repository of Pliocene sediments

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Researchers study crater of hydrogen bomb test

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Fossilized barnacles and oysters found here accurately mark the inter-tidal zone between high and low tide.

Photo courtesy Pliomax

South Africa has attracted the attention of the Pliomax team due to its lengthy shoreline, its relative remoteness from ice sheets (which confound elevation measurements) and the presumed relative vertical stability of the local landscape. The team explored hundreds of miles of the South African coastline, during a 20-day expedition in June 2012. They discovered 10 sites they believe are of Pliocene origin. At one of these sites, the researchers found layers of fossilized oysters and barnacles in their original living position, suggesting that the organisms had not been disturbed by physical forces such as erosion since they were alive.

Organisms identical to those found at the site live today between high and low tide, suggesting that the fossils accurately mark the elevation of past sea level. These finds are the best sea level indicators the Pliomax team has found so far. The team is dating some of their shells in the lab in order to verify the beaches’ Pliocene vintage. The team is also making corrections to measured elevations, to take account of vertical movement of South Africa’s coastline since the Pliocene.