Aquatic Sciences

, Volume 55, Issue 1, pp 31–39 | Cite as

Fossil carotenoids and paleolimnology of meromictic Mahoney Lake, British Columbia, Canada

  • Jörg Overmann
  • Gerhard Sandmann
  • Ken J. Hall
  • Tom G. Northcote


Vertical distribution of fossil carotenoids in a sediment core from meromictic Mahoney Lake was studied. Besides okenone and demethylated okenone, lutein and zeaxanthin andβ-carotene isomers were identified. No carotenoids typical for purple nonsulfur or green sulfur bacteria were detected. The ratio of zeaxanthin to lutein (above 1:1 in all samples) indicates a dominance of cyanobacteria over green algae in the phytoplankton assemblages of the past. Okenone, which is found exclusively in Chromatiaceae, was the dominating carotenoid in all sediment zones.

The oldest sediment layers containing okenone were deposited 11 000 years ago. Between 9000 and 7000 and since 3000 years b.p., Chromatiaceae reached a considerable biomass in the lake. Vertical changes in okenone concentration were not related to changes of paleotemperatures. In contrast, okenone concentrations decreased during periods of volcanic ash input. During most of the lake history, however, mean okenone concentrations were positively correlated with sedimentation rates. This indicates that vertical changes of okenone concentration in the sediment reflect past changes of purple sulfur bacterial biomass in the lake.

According to these results, the past limnology of Mahoney Lake resembled that of the present with a sulfide-containing monimolimnion and a well-developed population of okenone-bearing purple sulfur bacteria.

Key words

Paleolimnology fossil pigments carotenoids okenone photosynthetic bacteria meromixis 


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Copyright information

© Birkhäuser Verlag 1993

Authors and Affiliations

  • Jörg Overmann
    • 1
  • Gerhard Sandmann
    • 1
  • Ken J. Hall
    • 2
  • Tom G. Northcote
    • 3
  1. 1.Fakultät für BiologieUniversität KonstanzKonstanzGermany
  2. 2.Westwater Research CenterUniversity of British ColumbiaVancouverCanada
  3. 3.Department of ZoologyUniversity of British ColumbiaVancouverCanada

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