Impact of ocean acidification on crystallographic vital effect of the coral skeleton

Distinguishing between environmental and species-specific physiological signals, recorded in coral skeletons, is one of the fundamental challenges in their reliable use as (paleo)climate proxies. To date, characteristic biological bias in skeleton-recorded environmental signatures (vital effect) was shown in shifts in geochemical signatures. Herein, for the first time, we have assessed crystallographic parameters of bio-aragonite to study the response of the reef-building coral Stylophora pistillata to experimental seawater acidification (pH 8.2, 7.6 and 7.3). Skeletons formed under high pCO2 conditions show systematic crystallographic changes such as better constrained crystal orientation and anisotropic distortions of bio-aragonite lattice parameters due to increased amount of intracrystalline organic matrix and water content. These variations in crystallographic features that seem to reflect physiological adjustments of biomineralizing organisms to environmental change, are herein called crystallographic vital effect (CVE). CVE may register those changes in the biomineralization process that may not yet be perceived at the macromorphological skeletal level.

Coronado I., Fine M., Bosellini F. R. & Stolarski J., 2019. Impact of ocean acidification on crystallographic vital effect of the coral skeleton. Nature Communications 10: 2896. doi: 10.1038/s41467-019-10833-6. Article.

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