Strontium, magnesium, and barium incorporation in aragonitic shells of juvenile Arctica islandica: Insights from temperature controlled experiments

Wanamaker, Alan
Wanamaker, Alan
Gillikin, David
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Geological and Atmospheric Sciences

In order to constrain spatial and temporal temperatures and environmental conditions in the North Atlantic Ocean during the Holocene, high-resolution (seasonal to annual) marine proxies with excellent chronological constraints are needed. The long-lived ocean quahog, Arctica islandica, which has the potential to provide a precise annually-dated record, via crossdating techniques, is a fairly well-developed and tested marine proxy archive. In particular, oxygen isotopes derived from A. islandica shell carbonate have provided a wealth of information on marine climate and ocean circulation dynamics, however, shell-derived oxygen isotopes are influenced by both the isotopic source water signature (covarying with salinity) and seawater temperature. If seawater isotopic signature is not known, temperature reconstructions become challenging. Thus, an independent technique to estimate past seawater temperatures is highly desired, however based on previous studies on adult and juvenile clams, the utility of elemental ratios in A. islandica shell material as environmental proxies remains questionable. To further evaluate the influence of seawater temperature on elemental and isotopic incorporation during biomineralization, A. islandica shells were grown at constant temperatures under two regimes during a 16-week period from March 27 to July 21, 2011 at the Darling Marine Center in Walpole, Maine. Individual juvenile clams were stained with calcein and cultured at 10.30 ± 0.30 °C for six weeks. After this, the clams were again stained with calcein and cultured at 15.00 ± 0.40 °C for an additional 9.5 weeks. Average salinity values were 30.20 ± 0.70 and 30.70 ± 0.70 in the first and second phases of the experiment, respectively. Continuous sampling within and across the temperature conditions (from 10.30 °C to 15.00 °C) coupled with the calcein markings provided the ability to place each sample into a precise temporal framework and to establish exact average growth rates for the shells sampled. After accounting for changes in the isotopic composition of seawater, oxygen isotopes from one sampled shell effectively recorded seawater temperatures during the study and also gave confidence to the temporal fit of the data. Elemental ratios (Sr/Ca, Mg/Ca, Ba/Ca) from five aragonitic shells were determined via laser ablation inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometry. Sr/ Ca and Mg/Ca data showed little coherence with temperature during the culture experiment, including the rapid 5 °C increase in seawater temperature. However, Ba/Ca ratios showed an inverse relationship with seawater temperatures although this relationship was noisy. Additionally, salinity interactions were present during the 15.00 °C treatment, further highlighting complex incorporation of elements during biomineralization. Incorporation of Sr, Mg, and Ba were strongly and variably impacted by growth rates. Combined, the results from these culture experiments demonstrate that Sr/Ca, Mg/Ca, Ba/Ca ratios in juvenile A. islandica shell material are dominated by physiological processes and thus not reliable as environmental proxies.


This is a manuscript of an article published as Wanamaker Jr, Alan D., and David P. Gillikin. "Strontium, magnesium, and barium incorporation in aragonitic shells of juvenile Arctica islandica: Insights from temperature controlled experiments." Chemical Geology 526 (2019): 117-129. doi: 10.1016/j.chemgeo.2018.02.012. Posted with permission.