The inversion of aragonite to calcite during the sampling of skeletal archives: Implications for proxy interpretation

Amanda J. Waite, Peter K. Swart

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

23 Scopus citations


Rationale: Understanding changes in Earth's oceans and climate requires the reliable application of paleo-proxies. However, inconsistencies between individual δ18O records within biogenic specimens commonly have significant impacts on environmental reconstructions. This study addresses the stable isotope variability associated with sample milling from aragonitic organisms commonly used for paleoclimate studies. Methods: Aragonite samples were hand-ground and milled from sclerosponge, coral, and mollusc specimens using a computerized micromill. An X-ray diffractometer was used to analyze sample mineralogy prior to measurement of δ18O and δ13C values via isotope ratio mass spectrometry of CO2 gases provided from the samples by a Kiel III device. Possible influences on the Sr/Ca ratios were assessed on a sclerosponge through paired elemental analysis by inductively coupled plasma optical emission spectrometry. Results: Analyses revealed up to 36% inversion to calcite in milled samples that correlated with a decrease in the δ18O value of 0.02 ‰ per 1% inversion. Replicate sclerosponge transects yielded similar trends in δ13C values and Sr/Ca ratios, although the δ18O values showed irregular variations consistent with those measured for the inversion of individual organisms during milling. Conclusions: While the δ13C values and Sr/Ca ratios of milled samples were largely consistent, the δ18O values co-varied with the inversion of aragonite to calcite suggesting significant implications for the resulting temperature and salinity reconstructions from aragonitic archives. The effect appears to be density-driven and, given that the skeletal density tends to vary seasonally in organisms such as corals, would subsequently mask temperature-induced changes in skeletal δ18O values.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)955-964
Number of pages10
JournalRapid Communications in Mass Spectrometry
Issue number10
StatePublished - May 30 2015

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Analytical Chemistry
  • Spectroscopy
  • Organic Chemistry


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