Rhythmic patterns in ancient shells: Can we reconstruct sub-annual cyclicity in trace element and stable isotope profiles from rudist bivalves?

Niels De Winter, Matthias Sinnesael, Stef Vansteenberge, Steven Goderis, Christophe Snoeck, Stijn Van Malderen, Frank Vanhaecke, Philippe Claeys

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterAcademic


Well-preserved shells of Torreites rudists from the Late Campanian Saiwan Formation in Oman exhibit fine internal layering. These fine (±20 µm) laminae are rhythmically bundled (±400 µm) and subdivide the shells’ larger scale annual lamination (±15 mm), suggesting the presence of several interfering cycles in shell growth rate. The aim of the present study is to determine the duration and chemical signature of these rhythmic variations in shell composition.To achieve this, a range of micro-analytical techniques is applied on cross sections through the shells. Firstly, microscopy-based layer counting and colorimetric analysis are carried out on thin sections of shell calcite. Secondly, X-Ray Fluorescence (XRF) and Fourier Transform InfraRed (FTIR) mapping of cross sections of the shells reveal chemical and structural differences between laminae in 2D. Thirdly, high-resolution XRF (25 µm) and Laser Ablation Inductively Coupled Plasma Mass Spectrometry (LA-ICP-MS; 10 µm) trace element profiles are used to quantify variations in chemical composition between shell laminae. Fourthly, annual chronology is established based on micro-sampled stable carbon and oxygen stable isotope measurements (250 µm) along the growth axis of the shells. Finally, spectral analysis routines are applied to extract rhythmic patterns matched to the shell laminae from the structural, chemical and colorimetric data. Combining these methods allows for a full evaluation of the structural and chemical characteristics as well as the timing of sub-annual lamination in rudist shells.The results of this study shed light on the external factors that influenced growth rates in rudist bivalves. A better understanding of the timing of deposition of these laminae allows them to be used to improve age models of geochemical records in rudist shells. Characterization of small scale variations in shell composition will characterize the uncertainties contained within lower resolution proxy records from these fossil bivalves. Finally, the study of these laminae enables the reconstruction of sub-annual cyclicity in the environment of Late Cretaceous rudist bivalves. This may in turn shed light on the mechanics of climate in this shallow marine hothouse setting, which provide an analogue of future climate in the light of anthropogenic climate change.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationAGU Fall Meeting
Publication statusPublished - 14 Dec 2017


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