Pteropods from the Caribbean Sea: dissolution as an indicator of past ocean acidification

The aragonite shell–bearing thecosome pteropods are an important component of the oceanic plankton. However, with increasing pCO2 and the associated reduction in oceanic pH (ocean acidification), thecosome pteropods are thought to be particularly vulnerable to shell dissolution. The distribution and preservation of pteropods over the last 250,000 years have been investigated in marine sediment cores from the Caribbean Sea close to the island of Montserrat. Using the Limacina Dissolution Index (LDX), fluctuations in pteropod dissolution through the most recent glacial/interglacial cycles is documented. By comparison to the oxygen isotope record (global sea ice volume), we show that pteropod dissolution is closely linked to global changes in pCO2 and pH and is, therefore, a global signal. These data are in agreement with the findings of experiments upon living pteropods, which show that variations in pH can greatly affect aragonitic shells. The results of this study provide information which may be useful in the prediction of future changes to the pteropod assemblage caused by ocean acidification.

Wall-Palmer D., Hart M. B., Smart C. W., Sparks R. S. J., Le Friant A., Boudon G., Deplus C., & Komorowski J. C., 2011. Pteropods from the Caribbean Sea: dissolution as an indicator of past ocean acidification. Biogeosciences Discussions 8(4):6901-6917. Article.


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