Annual cycles of mass flux and isotopic composition of pteropod shells settling into the deep Sargasso sea Academic Article uri icon


  • Mass fluxes and stable isotopic compositions (deltaO-18 and deltaC-13) of pteropod shells collected during a 6-year series of 2-month sediment-trap deployments in the deep (3.2 km) Sargasso Sea provide information on annual population changes, habitat depths and life spans of thecosome pteropods (Euthecosomata). The flux of pteropod shells responds to the annual cycle of primary production in the upper ocean. Flux maxima of the shells (>1 mm) of eight species occur from late winter through autumn. Seasonal changes in the hydrography of the upper water column are quite accurately recorded in the deltaO-18 variations of six perennial species, which generally confirm the distinction between non-migratory (Creseis acicula, Creseis virgula conica, and Diacria quadridentata) and diurnally migratory taxa (Styliola subula, Cuvierina columnella, and Clio pyramidata). Isotopic records of C. acicula and C. virgula conica are consistent with shell formation above 50 m. The records of the migratory species reflect what appear to be average calcification depths of 50-75 m. Average annual deltaC-13 variations reveal the annual cycles of primary production and stratification of near-surface waters. Adult life spans of the species studied appear to be no more than a few months. The results of this study should be useful in paleoceanographic reconstructions based on isotopic measurements of sedimentary pteropod shells.

publication date

  • April 1993