Organic surface coating on Coccolithophores – Emiliania huxleyi: Its determination and implication in the marine carbon cycle

Most of the marine precipitation of CaCO3 is due to the biological activities of planktonic and benthic organisms in waters largely oversaturated with respect to calcium carbonates. This saturation state is expected to decrease as CO2 increases in seawater. A conventional view in oceanography suggests that calcium carbonates organisms are preserved in oversaturated waters and dissolve only below the lysocline. However, it has be postulated that a fraction of the CaCO3 precipitated biogenically could dissolve in oversaturated waters due to the formation of microenvironments in which respired CO2 decreases the saturation state of seawater (Ω) in the vicinity of CaCO3 crystals. In the present study, cells of the coccolithophore Emiliania huxleyi obtained from laboratory cultures and field samples collected in the Gulf of Biscay, were examined using “variable-energy” electron-probe microanalysis, to determine the presence and thickness of their organic coating. In addition, a new approach for transferring micrometer-sized particles from a filter onto transmission electron microscope grids using manipulators was used to investigate individual coccolithophores. The dry thickness of an organic coating over the coccolithophore surface was found to range between 280 and 350 nm. The resemblance of this coating to the carbohydrates produced and released by the cell is discussed as well as their potential for constituting a microenvironment that hosts bacteria. The properties of this organic coating and its role in the preservation/dissolution and export of biogenic carbonates in the water column are one of the major issues of carbonate geochemistry.



Godoi R.H.M. ,Aerts K. , Harlay J., Kaegi R., Chul-Un Ro, Chou L., Van Grieken R., in press. Organic surface coating on Coccolithophores – Emiliania huxleyi: Its determination and implication in the marine carbon cycle. Microchemical Journal. Article (Subscription required).

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