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Growth Increments and Geochemical Variations in the Molluscan Shell

  • Douglas S. Jones (a1)


Perhaps the one structural feature of the molluscan shell which has historically attracted the most attention from biologists and paleobiologists alike is the banding or growth increment variation associated with so many molluscan species. Such growth patterns are often prominently displayed on the external surfaces of shells and have long been the focus of serious biological and paleontological research (see reviews by Clark, 1974; Lutz and Rhoads, 1980). The usefulness of external shell growth patterns in ecological or paleoecological contexts is limited, however, by both the inability to distinguish true periodic features from random disturbance marks and by the extreme crowding of growth lines near the margins of mature shells. In the last two decades these problems have been surmounted with the recognition of periodic growth patterns within molluscan shells. Internal shell growth patterns are known from all classes of mollusks, but those in the Bivalvia have been studied most extensively. This is a result of the relative ease with which a complete ontogenetic growth record can be obtained by sectioning a shell along the axis of maximum growth (Rhoads and Pannella, 1970). Analogous ontogenetic records are very difficult, if not impossible, to obtain from coiled or spiral shells (e.g., gastropods) using current techniques (Lutz and Rhoads, 1980). This chapter, then, aims to review the major types of internal shell growth patterns described within molluscan shells (mainly bivalves) and to discuss their origin and applications in ecology and paleoecology. Also taken up in this chapter is a brief consideration of geochemical variations (stable oxygen and carbon isotopes and trace and minor elements) within molluscan shells. Physical-chemical, environmental, and physiological influences on shell chemistry are discussed in relation to how biogeochemical variations in the shell may be used to reconstruct paleoenvironmental conditions.



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