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J Struct Biol. 1999 Jun 30;126(3):195-215.

Coccolith ultrastructure and biomineralisation

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Palaeontology Department, The Natural History Museum, Cromwell Road, London, SW7 5BD.


The relationship between calcite biomineralisation and coccolith ultrastructure is analysed across the diversity of calcifying haptophytes. The emphasis is on integration of evidence from crystallographic and ultrastructural studies but additional relevant information from biochemical and phylogenetic work is reviewed. We attempt to identify aspects of ultrastructure which are most likely to be the product of self-organising processes. The principal topics reviewed are heterococcolith rim nucleation, including reassessment of the V/R model; crystal growth regulation in heterococcoliths; holococcolith biomineralisation; and the diversity of other biomineralisation modes in haptophytes. It is concluded that the diverse range of calcareous structures produced by haptophytes probably has a common phylogenetic origin and is produced via operation of a limited set of mainly shared genetic and biochemical pathways.


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