A biomineralization study of the Indo-Pacific giant clam Tridacna gigas

Abstract

The giant clam, Tridacna gigas, is an important faunal component of reef ecosystems of the Indo-Pacific region. In addition to its ecological role, shells of this bivalve species are useful bioarchives for past climate and environmental reconstructions. However, the biomineralization processes involved in shell aragonite deposition are insufficiently understood. Here, we present a study of the shell microstructure of modern specimens from Palm Island, Great Barrier Reef (GBR), Australia, and Huon Peninsula, Papua New Guinea (PNG), using a combination of petrography, scanning electron microscopy, electron backscatter diffraction, Raman spectroscopy and stable carbon isotope ratios. Daily growth increments were recognizable in all specimens through ontogeny, and counting these growth lines provides a robust specimen age estimate. For the internal layers, paired increments of organized aragonitic needles and compact, oblong crystals were recognized in a specimen from PNG, whereas specimens from GBR were composed of shield-like crystals that were not definable at the microscale. The combination of nutrient availability, rainfall and solar irradiance are likely to be the most significant factors controlling shell growth and may explain the observed differences in microstructure. The external layer, identical in all specimens, was composed of dendritic microstructure that is significantly enriched in 13C compared to the internal layer, suggesting different metabolic controls on layer deposition. We propose that the mineralization of the internal and external layers is independent from each other and associated with the activity of specific mantles. Future studies using T. gigas shells as bioarchives should consider the microstructure as it reflects the environment in which the individual lived and the differences in mineralization pathways of internal and external layers.

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Acknowledgements

The graduate study of MEG was supported by the W. Gary Hooks Endowed Geology Fund and laboratory work by a University of Alabama Research Graduate Council Award. Thanks are extended to Johnny Goodwin and the Central Analytical Facility for assistance and training on the SEM, Joe Lambert and the Alabama Stable Isotope Laboratory for facilitating isotope analyses and supplemental funding for analyses, and Patrick Sipe and Gregory Dye for assistance in obtaining Raman spectra. Finally, thanks to Sara Kozmor for collaborative ideas and two anonymous journal reviewers whose valuable comments improved the quality of this manuscript.

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Correspondence to M. E. Gannon.

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Communicated by Biology Editor Dr. Mark A. Patterson

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Gannon, M.E., Pérez-Huerta, A., Aharon, P. et al. A biomineralization study of the Indo-Pacific giant clam Tridacna gigas . Coral Reefs 36, 503–517 (2017). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00338-016-1538-5

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Keywords

  • Shell growth
  • Microstructure and microtexture
  • Great Barrier Reef
  • Papua New Guinea