Growth and composition of high-Mg calcite in the skeleton of a Bermudian gorgonian (Plexaurella dichotoma): Potential for paleothermometry Academic Article uri icon


  • We used Secondary Ion Mass Spectrometry (SIMS) ion microprobe to analyze magnesium-to-calcium (Mg/Ca) and strontium-to-calcium (Sr/Ca) ratios of high-Mg calcite loculi within the skeleton of a shallow water gorgonian, Plexaurella dichotoma, from Bermuda. A cross-section of the gorgonian skeleton reveals loculi embedded within proteinaceous gorgonin arranged in concentric rings about the axial core. Viewed in cross-section, the loculi are fan-shaped, 10-140 ?m in diameter, and composed of bundles of needle-shaped crystals that appear to radiate out from a calcification center. Discrete sample spots, each 20 ?m diameter, were sputtered from successive loculi along a sample track 3 mm long. Over this distance, twenty-five bands of high-low density gorgonin couplets were encountered, estimated to represent the period 1963 to 1988. Mg/Ca ratios show an overall, positive correlation with annual sea surface temperatures (SSTs) that is strongest in the autumn months (October- December). High-resolution analyses along the growth axes of individual loculi reveal low variability and no trend, consistent with our interpretation of seasonal growth of these calcite inclusions. The sensitivity of Mg/Ca to interannual changes in average autumn temperatures is 0.47 mmol/mol per ºC. Conversely, interannual variability in calcite Sr/Ca does not follow the interannual variability in SST and may be influenced primarily by growth rate.

publication date

  • August 2005