Combined carbonate carbon isotopic and cellular ultrastructural studies of individual benthic foraminifera : 2. Toward an understanding of apparent disequilibrium in hydrocarbon seeps
Bernhard, Joan M.
Martin, Jonathan B.
Rathburn, Anthony E.
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Numerous previous studies show disequilibrium between stable carbon isotope ratios of foraminiferal calcite and pore water dissolved inorganic carbon in hydrocarbon seeps, calling into question the utility of this widely used paleoceanographic tracer as a proxy. We use a recently developed method to compare stable carbon isotope ratios of foraminiferal carbonate with cell ultrastructural observations from individual benthic foraminifera from seep (under chemosynthetic bivalves) and nonseep habitats in Monterey Bay, California, to better understand control(s) of benthic foraminiferal carbon isotope ratios. Two attributes previously proposed to cause the isotopic offsets are diet and symbionts. Ultrastructural analysis shows that positive staining with Rose Bengal indicates presence of foraminiferal cytoplasm, bacterial biomass, or a combination of both and, thus, is not an unequivocal indicator of viability. We also show for the first time that some living seep foraminifera have endobionts. Results from our unique, yet limited, data set are consistent with suggestions that, in our sites, several foraminiferal species collected from seep clam beds may not survive there, diet and symbiont presence do not appear to be major contributors to disequilibrium, little calcification of seep-tolerant foraminiferal species occurs while seep conditions prevail, and microscale variability in habitats could influence δ13C of benthic foraminiferal carbonate. Results further suggest that our knowledge of benthic foraminiferal ecology and biomineralization, especially in extreme habitats such as seeps, must be bolstered before we fully understand the fidelity of paleoenvironmental records derived from benthic foraminiferal test δ13C data.
Author Posting. © American Geophysical Union, 2010. This article is posted here by permission of American Geophysical Union for personal use, not for redistribution. The definitive version was published in Paleoceanography 25 (2010): PA4206, doi:10.1029/2010PA001930.
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