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Journal Articles Nature Communications Year : 2017

The origin of carbon isotope vital effects in coccolith calcite

H. L. O. Mcclelland
  • Function : Author
J. Bruggeman
  • Function : Author
R. E. M. Rickaby
  • Function : Author


Calcite microfossils are widely used to study climate and oceanography in Earth's geological past. Coccoliths, readily preserved calcite plates produced by a group of single-celled surface-ocean dwelling algae called coccolithophores, have formed a significant fraction of marine sediments since the Late Triassic. However, unlike the shells of foraminifera, their zooplankton counterparts, coccoliths remain underused in palaeo-reconstructions. Precipitated in an intracellular chemical and isotopic microenvironment, coccolith calcite exhibits large and enigmatic departures from the isotopic composition of abiogenic calcite, known as vital effects. Here we show that the calcification to carbon fixation ratio determines whether coccolith calcite is isotopically heavier or lighter than abiogenic calcite, and that the size of the deviation is determined by the degree of carbon utilization. We discuss the theoretical potential for, and current limitations of, coccolith-based CO2 paleobarometry, that may eventually facilitate use of the ubiquitous and geologically extensive sedimentary archive.
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Dates and versions

insu-03748869 , version 1 (10-08-2022)





H. L. O. Mcclelland, J. Bruggeman, M. Hermoso, R. E. M. Rickaby. The origin of carbon isotope vital effects in coccolith calcite. Nature Communications, 2017, 8, ⟨10.1038/ncomms14511⟩. ⟨insu-03748869⟩
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