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Miocene mounds on the Ross Sea paleo-continental shelf: evidence of the onset of Antarctic glaciations or mud volcanoes?

L. Barro Savonuzzi, G. Brancatelli, E. Forlin, L. De Santis, R. Geletti, M. Busetti, N. Wardell and A. Del Ben


Buried mounds have been identified on seismic reflection profiles in the southern Roosevelt sub-basin of the eastern Ross Sea, Antarctica. Since they have never been sampled, the composition of these mounds can only be inferred from their acoustic character. Previous studies have hypothesised that they are buried glacial moraines deposited by ice grounding near the paleo-continental shelf edge, suggesting the beginning of the growth of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet (WAIS) as early as the late Oligocene. This hypothesis conflicts with earlier evidence of the WAIS advance over the central-eastern Ross Sea. An alternative explanation for the origin of the mounds, as mud volcanoes, is formulated here on the basis of seismic reflection profile reprocessing and comparison with other, better studied, mound provinces in the Ross Sea. Shallow drilling is required to verify, which hypothesis is correct, and this has implications for various WAIS scenarios, ice volumes, and thermal rheological modelling.