Strontium heterogeneity and speciation in coral aragonite: Implications for the strontium paleothermometer

Nicola Allison, Adrian Anthony Finch, SV Sutton, M Newville

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55 Citations (Scopus)


Sea surface temperatures (SSTs) have been inferred previously from the Sr/Ca ratios of coral aragonite. However, microanalytical studies have indicated that Sr in some coral skeletons is more heterogeneously distributed than expected from SST data. Strontium may exist in two skeletal phases, as Sr substituted for Ca in aragonite and as separate SrCO3 (strontianite) domains. Variations in the size, quantity, or both of these domains may account for small-scale Sr heterogeneity. Here, we use synchrotron X-ray fluorescence to map Sr/Ca variations in a Porites lobata skeleton at a 5 mum scale. Variations are large and unrelated to changes in local seawater temperature or composition. Selected area extended X-ray absorption fine structure (EXAFS) spectroscopy of low- and high-Sr areas indicates that Sr is present as a substitute ion in aragonite i.e., domains of Sr carbonate (strontianite) are absent or in minor abundance. Variations in strontianite abundance are not responsible for the Sr/Ca fluctuations observed in this sample. The Sr microdistribution is systematic and appears to correlate with the crystalline fabric of the coral skeleton, suggesting Sr heterogeneity may reflect nonequilibrium calcification processes. Nonequilibrium incorporation of Sr complicates the interpretation of Sr/Ca ratios in terms of SST, particularly in attempts to extend the temporal resolution of the technique. The micro-EXAFS technique may prove to be valuable, allowing the selection of coral microvolumes for Sr/Ca measurement where strontium is incorporated in a known structural environment. Copyright (C) 2001 Elsevier Science Ltd.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2669-2676
Number of pages8
JournalGeochimica et Cosmochimica Acta
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2001


  • SR/CA


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