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Quat Geochronol. 2008 Feb;3(1-2):2-25.

Closed-system behaviour of the intra-crystalline fraction of amino acids in mollusc shells.

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  • 1BioArch, Departments of Biology, Archaeology and Chemistry, Biology S Block, University of York, P.O. Box 373, York, YO10 5YW, UK.

Abstract

When mollusc shells are analysed conventionally for amino acid geochronology, the entire population of amino acids is included, both inter- and intra-crystalline. This study investigates the utility of removing the amino acids that are most susceptible to environmental effects by isolating the fraction of amino acids encapsulated within mineral crystals of mollusc shells (intra-crystalline fraction). Bleaching, heating and leaching (diffusive loss) experiments were undertaken on modern and fossil Corbicula fluminalis, Margaritifera falcata, Bithynia tentaculata and Valvata piscinalis shells. Exposure of powdered mollusc shells to concentrated NaOCl for 48 h effectively reduced the amino acid content of the four taxa to a residual level, assumed to represent the intra-crystalline fraction. When heated in water at 140 degrees C for 24 h, only 1% of amino acids were leached from the intra-crystalline fraction of modern shells compared with 40% from whole shell. Free amino acids were more effectively retained in the intra-crystalline fraction, comprising 55% (compared with 18%) of the whole shell after 24 h at 140 degrees C. For fossil gastropods, the inter-shell variability in D/L values for the intra-crystalline fraction of a single-age population was reduced by 50% compared with conventionally analysed shells. In contrast, analysis of the intra-crystalline fraction of C. fluminalis does not appear to improve the results for this taxon, possibly due to variability in shell ultrastructure. Nonetheless, the intra-crystalline fraction in gastropods approximates a closed system of amino acids and appears to provide a superior subset of amino acids for geochronological applications.

PMID:
19684879
[PubMed]
PMCID:
PMC2727006
Free PMC Article
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