Letter | Published:

Molecular stratigraphy

Naturevolume 254pages127129 (1975) | Download Citation



ORGANIC molecules contained in sediments were called ‘chemical fossils’ by Eglinton and Calvin1, and Calvin2 has used the term “molecular palaeontology” to emphasise the biological heritage of those components. They recognised the important concept that molecular organic components in sediments may be viewed in much the same way as morphological remains of organisms. Others have rigorously examined this concept and solidified its basis3–6. We report organic geochemical data on some Pleistocene sediments, correlated by physical stratigraphic methods, which indicate that the organic composition of sediments may be utilised as a correlation parameter comparable to morphological fossils in biostratigraphy. The samples we have chosen for study are lacustrine sediments from two Pleistocene basins of eastern California.

Access optionsAccess options

Rent or Buy article

Get time limited or full article access on ReadCube.


All prices are NET prices.


  1. 1

    Eglinton, G., and Calvin, M., Sci. Am., 216, 32 (1967).

  2. 2

    Calvin, M., Trans. Leicester Lit. Phil. Soc., LXII, 45 (1968).

  3. 3

    Tissot, B., Oudin, J. L., and Pelet, R., in Advances in Organic Geochemistry, 1971 (edit. by von Gaertner, H. R., and Wehner, H.), 113 (Pergamon, Oxford, 1972).

  4. 4

    Tissot, B., Califet-Debyser, Y., Deroo, G., and Oudin, J. L., Bull. Am. Assoc. petrol. Geol., 55, 2177 (1971).

  5. 5

    Albrecht, P., and Ourisson, G., Angew. Chem. Ausg. B., 10, 209 (1971).

  6. 6

    Arpino, P., Albrecht, P., and Ourisson, G., in Advances in Organic Geochemistry, 1971 (edit. by von Gaertner, H. R., and Wehner, H.), 173 (Pergamon, Oxford, 1972).

  7. 7

    Broecker, W. S., and Walton, A., Bull. geol. Soc. Am., 70, 601 (1959).

  8. 8

    Scholl, D. W., Von Huene, R., St. Amand, P., and Ridlon, J. B., Bull. geol. Soc. Am., 78, 583 (1967).

  9. 9

    Mason, D. T., Univ. Calif. Publ. Zool., 83 (1967).

  10. 10

    Simpson, H. J., thesis, Univ. Columbia (1970).

  11. 11

    Christensen, M. N., Gilbert, C. M., Lajoie, K. R., and Al Rawi, Y., J. geophys. Res., 74, 5221 (1969).

  12. 12

    Lajoie, K. R., thesis, Univ. California, Berkeley (1968).

  13. 13

    Reed, W. E., Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory Report, LBL–934 (1972).

  14. 14

    Flint, R. F., and Gale, W. A., Am. J. Sci., 256, 689 (1958).

  15. 15

    Stuiver, M., Am. J. Sci., 262, 377 (1964).

  16. 16

    Mabey, D. R., Geophysics, 21, 839 (1956).

  17. 17

    Baker, D. R., Bull. Am. Assoc. petrol. Geol., 46, 1621 (1962).

  18. 18

    Henderson, W., Reed, W. E., and Steel, G., in Advances in Organic Geochemistry, 1971 (edit. by von Gaertner, H. R., and Wehner, H.), 335 (Pergamon, Oxford, 1972).

  19. 19

    Blumer, M., and Thomas, D. W., Science, 147, 1148 (1965).

Download references

Author information


  1. Department of Geology, University of California, Los Angeles, California, 90024



  1. Search for WALTER E. REED in:

  2. Search for PAUL MANKIEWICZ in:

About this article

Publication history



Issue Date




By submitting a comment you agree to abide by our Terms and Community Guidelines. If you find something abusive or that does not comply with our terms or guidelines please flag it as inappropriate.