Controls on calcium isotope fractionation in cultured planktic foraminifera, Globigerinoides ruber and Globigerinella siphonifera

Specimens of two species of planktic foraminifera, Globigerinoides ruber and Globigerinella siphonifera, were grown under controlled laboratory conditions at a range of temperatures (18–31 °C), salinities (32–44 psu) and pH levels (7.9–8.4). The shells were examined for their calcium isotope compositions (δ44/40Ca) and strontium to calcium ratios (Sr/Ca) using Thermal Ionization Mass Spectrometry and Inductively Coupled Plasma Mass Spectrometry. Although the total variation in δ44/40Ca (~0.3‰) in the studied species is on the same order as the external reproducibility, the data set reveals some apparent trends that are controlled by more than one environmental parameter. There is a well-defined inverse linear relationship between δ44/40Ca and Sr/Ca in all experiments, suggesting similar controls on these proxies in foraminiferal calcite independent of species. Analogous to recent results from inorganically precipitated calcite, we suggest that Ca isotope fractionation and Sr partitioning in planktic foraminifera are mainly controlled by precipitation kinetics. This postulation provides us with a unique tool to calculate precipitation rates and draws support from the observation that Sr/Ca ratios are positively correlated with average growth rates. At 25 °C water temperature, precipitation rates in G. siphonifera and G. ruber are calculated to be on the order of 2000 and 3000 μmol/m2/h, respectively. The lower δ44/40Ca observed at ≥29 °C in both species is consistent with increased precipitation rates at high water temperatures. Salinity response of δ44/40Ca (and Sr/Ca) in G. siphonifera implies that this species has the highest precipitation rates at the salinity of its natural habitat, whereas increasing salinities appear to trigger higher precipitation rates in G. ruber. Isotope effects that cannot be explained by precipitation rate in planktic foraminifera can be explained by a biological control, related to a vacuolar pathway for supply of ions during biomineralization and a pH regulation mechanism in these vacuoles. In case of an additional pathway via cross-membrane transport, supplying light Ca for calcification, the δ44/40Ca of the reservoir is constrained as −0.2‰ relative to seawater. Using a Rayleigh distillation model, we calculate that calcification occurs in a semi-open system, where less than half of the Ca supplied by vacuolization is utilized for calcite precipitation. Our findings are relevant for interpreting paleo-proxy data on δ44/40Ca and Sr/Ca in foraminifera as well as understanding their biomineralization processes.

Kisakürek B., Eisenhauer A., Böhm F., Hathorne E. C., & Erez J., 2011. Controls on calcium isotope fractionation in cultured planktic foraminifera, Globigerinoides ruber and Globigerinella siphonifera. Geochimica et Cosmochimica Acta 75(2):427-443. Article (subscription required).

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