, Volume 207, Issue 1–2, pp 54–66 | Cite as

Coccolith crystals ofPleurochrysis carterae: Crystallographic faces, organization, and development

Original Papers


The crystallographic and morphological configuration of the mineral ring associated with the coccoliths ofPleurochrysis carterae was determined by transmission electron microscopy and electron diffraction. Mature Pleurochrysis coccoliths consist of an oval organic base plate, a distal rim of interlocking calcite crystals, and a narrow ribbon of organic material which tethers the mineral ring to the base plate. Crystals of two distinct forms (R and V units) alternate about the rim in a quasi regular manner; their crystallographicc-axes are aligned parallel to and inclined about 63° to the coccolith plane, respectively. The mineral ring has four platelike elements: the distal-shield and outer-tube elements which form the V unit, and the proximal-shield and inner-tube elements which form the R units. The platy surfaces of both tube elements correspond to the common (10\(\bar 1\)4) rhombohedral faces of calcite, and the plates of the proximal-shield element are prismatic (2\(\overline {11}\)0) faces. The plates of the distal-shield element are rather curved and their orientation does not correspond to a favorable calcite face; however, for convenience they are described as approximately (\(\bar 1\)108) faces, faces which rarely, if ever, develop in inorganic sources of calcite. During coccolith development the earliest habits observed for both V and R units correspond to rectangular parallelepipeds. Outgrowth from the initial V unit begins by expansion of (10\(\bar 1\)4) faces which form the platy surfaces of the outer-tube element. Throughout this period of development the mineral ring is flexible, at least in an isolated state. Subsequent outgrowth of the inner-tube and proximal-shield elements from the initial R unit produces a rigid interlocking ring. The unusual (\(\bar 1\)108) faces of the distal-shield element develop after the crystals are locked in place. Organic structures in intimate association with the mineral phase during its nucleation and growth include the coccolith ribbon, the calcium-polyanion particles, and the membrane of the coccolith vesicle. These structures are described in reference to their putative functions in regulating the development of V and R units.


Coccolith Calcite Biomineralization 





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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 1999

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Basic SciencesThe University of Texas, Dental Branch, Houston Health Science CenterHoustonUSA

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