Sr/Ca and Mg/Ca ratios of ontogenetically old, long-lived bivalve shells (Arctica islandica) and their function as paleotemperature proxies

Bernd R. Schöne*, Zengjie Zhang, Pascal Radermacher, Julien Thébault, Dorrit E. Jacob, Elizabeth V. Nunn, Anne France Maurer

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

92 Citations (Scopus)


The Sr/Ca and Mg/Ca ratios of many biogenic skeletons provide useful paleotemperature estimates. As yet however, it has remained largely impossible to obtain such information from bivalve shells. In the present study, metal-to-calcium values in the hinge plate (aragonite, outer shell layer) of four ontogenetically old (85 to 374year-old) specimens of the long-lived bivalve, Arctica islandica, were measured on a LA-ICP-MS. The shells were collected alive in 1868, 1986 and 2003 from three different localities around Iceland. With increasing ontogenetic age and decreasing growth rate, a distinct trend toward increasing Sr/Ca (max. 5.17mmol/mol) and Mg/Ca values (max. 0.89mmol/mol) and greater variance were observed. Three potential explanations for these trends include a reduced capacity for element selection due to cell ageing, changing metabolism and/or a relative increase in the number of organic-rich (=Mg-rich) and organic-poor (=Sr-rich) shell portions through ontogeny. Partition coefficients however, remained far below 1, indicating that physiology exerted a strong control over the element partitioning between the shells and the ambient water. After mathematical elimination of these vital effects, residuals exhibited a highly significant negative correlation (e.g., age-detrended Sr/Ca data: R=-0.64, R2=0.41, p<0.0001, growth rate-detrended Mg/Ca data: R=-0.52, R2=0.27, p<0.0001) with sea surface temperature. These results are in good agreement with results obtained from the precipitation of abiogenic aragonite. The results of the present study can help to develop new techniques to extract environmental signals from the metal-to-calcium ratios of bivalve shells.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)52-64
Number of pages13
JournalPalaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology
Issue number01-Feb
Publication statusPublished - 2011
Externally publishedYes

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