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Concept: Calcite


Trackways and tracemakers preserved together in the fossil record are rare. However, the co-occurrence of a drag mark, together with the dead animal that produced it, is exceptional. Here, we describe an 8.5 m long ammonite drag mark complete with the preserved ammonite shell (Subplanites rueppellianus) at its end. Previously recorded examples preserve ammonites with drag marks of < 1 m. The specimen was recovered from a quarry near Solnhofen, southern Germany. The drag mark consists of continuous parallel ridges and furrows produced by the ribs of the ammonite shell as it drifted just above the sediment surface, and does not reflect behaviour of the living animal.

Concepts: Sedimentary rock, Fossil, Calcite, Dinosaur, Bioerosion, Solnhofen limestone, Trace fossil, Nautilus


The Antarctic Peninsula has experienced a rapid increase in atmospheric temperature over the last 50 years. Whether or not marine organisms thriving in this cold stenothermal environment are able to cope with warming is of concern. Here, we present changes to the growth and shell characteristics of the ecologically important, small and short lived brooding bivalve Lissarca miliaris from Signy Island, Antarctica. Using material collected from the 1970’s to the present day, we show an increase in growth rate and adult shell deterioration accompanied by a decrease in offspring size, associated with an increase in annual average temperatures. Critical changes to the bivalve’s ecology seen today evidence the problem of a shift in baseline since the onset of warming recorded in Antarctica. These small bivalves are demonstrating ecophysiological responses to subtle warming that, provided warming continues, could soon surpass a physiological tipping point, adding to warming associated threats such as increased predatory pressure and ocean acidification.

Concepts: Biology, Ecology, Ocean, Antarctica, Calcite, Antarctic Circle, Baseline, Antarctic


Anthropogenic emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2) are causing ocean acidification, lowering seawater aragonite (CaCO3) saturation state (Ωarag), with potentially substantial impacts on marine ecosystems over the 21(st) Century. Calcifying organisms have exhibited reduced calcification under lower saturation state conditions in aquaria. However, the in situ sensitivity of calcifying ecosystems to future ocean acidification remains unknown. Here we assess the community level sensitivity of calcification to local CO2-induced acidification caused by natural respiration in an unperturbed, biodiverse, temperate intertidal ecosystem. We find that on hourly timescales nighttime community calcification is strongly influenced by Ωarag, with greater net calcium carbonate dissolution under more acidic conditions. Daytime calcification however, is not detectably affected by Ωarag. If the short-term sensitivity of community calcification to Ωarag is representative of the long-term sensitivity to ocean acidification, nighttime dissolution in these intertidal ecosystems could more than double by 2050, with significant ecological and economic consequences.

Concepts: Oxygen, Carbon dioxide, Calcium, Ecosystem, Carbon, Calcium carbonate, Calcite, Aragonite


Carbonate concretions occur in sedimentary rocks of widely varying geological ages throughout the world. Many of these concretions are isolated spheres, centered on fossils. The formation of such concretions has been variously explained by diffusion of inorganic carbon and organic matter in buried marine sediments. However, details of the syn-depositional chemical processes by which the isolated spherical shape developed and the associated carbon sources are little known. Here we present evidence that spherical carbonate concretions (diameters φ : 14 ~ 37 mm) around tusk-shells (Fissidentalium spp.) were formed within weeks or months following death of the organism by the seepage of fatty acid from decaying soft body tissues. Characteristic concentrations of carbonate around the mouth of a tusk-shell reveal very rapid formation during the decay of organic matter from the tusk-shell. Available observations and geochemical evidence have enabled us to construct a ‘Diffusion-growth rate cross-plot’ that can be used to estimate the growth rate of all kinds of isolated spherical carbonate concretions identified in marine formations. Results shown here suggest that isolated spherical concretions that are not associated with fossils might also be formed from carbon sourced in the decaying soft body tissues of non-skeletal organisms with otherwise low preservation potential.

Concepts: Carbon dioxide, Sediment, Chemistry, Sedimentary rock, Carbon, Petrology, Fossil, Calcite


Understanding mollusk calcification sensitivity to ocean acidification (OA) requires a better knowledge of calcification mechanisms. Especially in rapidly calcifying larval stages, mechanisms of shell formation are largely unexplored-yet these are the most vulnerable life stages. Here we find rapid generation of crystalline shell material in mussel larvae. We find no evidence for intracellular CaCO3 formation, indicating that mineral formation could be constrained to the calcifying space beneath the shell. Using microelectrodes we show that larvae can increase pH and [CO3(2-)] beneath the growing shell, leading to a ~1.5-fold elevation in calcium carbonate saturation state (Ωarag). Larvae exposed to OA exhibit a drop in pH, [CO3(2-)] and Ωarag at the site of calcification, which correlates with decreased shell growth, and, eventually, shell dissolution. Our findings help explain why bivalve larvae can form shells under moderate acidification scenarios and provide a direct link between ocean carbonate chemistry and larval calcification rate.

Concepts: Larva, Mineral, Calcium carbonate, Mollusca, Carbonic acid, Calcite, Aragonite, Ocean acidification


Crystalline biominerals do not resemble faceted crystals. Current explanations for this property involve formation via amorphous phases. Using X-ray absorption near-edge structure (XANES) spectroscopy and photoelectron emission microscopy (PEEM), here we examine forming spicules in embryos of Strongylocentrotus purpuratus sea urchins, and observe a sequence of three mineral phases: hydrated amorphous calcium carbonate (ACC · H(2)O) → dehydrated amorphous calcium carbonate (ACC) → calcite. Unexpectedly, we find ACC · H(2)O-rich nanoparticles that persist after the surrounding mineral has dehydrated and crystallized. Protein matrix components occluded within the mineral must inhibit ACC · H(2)O dehydration. We devised an in vitro, also using XANES-PEEM, assay to identify spicule proteins that may play a role in stabilizing various mineral phases, and found that the most abundant occluded matrix protein in the sea urchin spicules, SM50, stabilizes ACC · H(2)O in vitro.

Concepts: Protein, Nutrition, Calcium carbonate, Sea urchin, Urchin, Calcite, Aragonite, Echinoidea


The dynamics of calcium carbonate (CaCO(3)) precipitation induced by microbial intracellular or extracellular carbonic anhydrase (CA) at initial pH 6.0, 6.5, 7.0 and 8.0 were investigated through the gaseous diffusion method. The results indicated that both the intracellular and extracellular CA could promote CaCO(3) precipitation. The Ca(2+) ions in the enzymatic systems at initial pH 8.0 were completely deposited at 48 h, which were respectively 21 h, 15 h and 14 h earlier compared with that at initial pH 6.0, pH 6.5 and pH 7.0, indicating that higher pH favored CaCO(3) precipitation in the experimental pH range, and was beneficial to the catalytic action of microbial CA on CaCO(3) precipitation. In addition, XRD analysis indicated that the CaCO(3) precipitates were mainly calcite crystals in the presence of microbial CA. With increasing deposition time, the crystals gradually changed from prism shape to pyramid-like or irregular polyhedral shape based on FESEM analysis.

Concepts: Carbon dioxide, Enzyme, Calcium, Carbon, Solid, Calcium carbonate, Bicarbonate, Calcite


In this study, tubular hydrogel structures were constructed via electrodeposition using alginate gels. Electrolysis of water in alginate solutions with calcium carbonate particles induced gel aggregation around Pt wire electrodes, forming tubular alginate gel structures. The simple method is a promising approach for construction of multi-layer tubular hydrogel structures for tissue engineering.

Concepts: Water, Calcium, Colloid, Calcium carbonate, Electrolysis, Calcite, Aragonite, Electrolysis of water


Poly(methyl methacrylate) (PMMA) microcapsules were prepared by the in situ polymerization of methyl methacrylate (MMA) and N,N'-methylenebisacrylamide on the surface of calcium carbonate (CaCO(3)) particles, followed by the dissolution of the CaCO(3) core in ethylenediaminetetraacetic acid solution. The microcapsules were characterized using fluorescence microscopy, atomic force microscopy, scanning electron microscopy, and Fourier transform infrared spectroscopy. The average sizes of the CaCO(3) particles and PMMA capsules were 3.8±0.6 and 4.0±0.6 μm, respectively. A copolymer consisting of MMA and rhodamine B-bearing MMA was also used to prepare microcapsules for fluorescent microscopy observations. Fluorescein isothiocyanate-labeled bovine serum albumin was enclosed in the PMMA microcapsules and its release properties were studied.

Concepts: Fluorescence, Electron, Spectroscopy, Serum albumin, Microscopy, Infrared spectroscopy, Fourier transform spectroscopy, Calcite


Although the polymorphism of calcium carbonate is well known, and its polymorphs-calcite, aragonite, and vaterite-have been highly studied in the context of biomineralization, polyamorphism is a much more recently discovered phenomenon, and the existence of more than one amorphous phase of calcium carbonate in biominerals has only very recently been understood. Here we summarize what is known about polyamorphism in calcium carbonate as well as what is understood about the role of amorphous calcium carbonate in biominerals. We show that consideration of the amorphous forms of calcium carbonate within the physical notion of polyamorphism leads to new insights when it comes to the mechanisms by which polymorphic structures can evolve in the first place. This not only has implications for our understanding of biomineralization, but also of the means by which crystallization may be controlled in medical, pharmaceutical, and industrial contexts.

Concepts: Carbon dioxide, Understanding, Solubility, Cognition, Knowledge, Calcium carbonate, Calcite, Aragonite