Extensive elemental mapping unlocks Mg/Ca ratios as climate proxy in seasonal records of Mediterranean limpets


Elemental analysis of biogeochemical archives is an established technique used to study climate in a range of applications, including ocean circulation, glacial/interglacial climates, and anthropogenic climate change. Data from mollusc archives are especially important because of their global abundance and sub-annual resolution. Despite this potential, they are underrepresented among palaeoclimate studies, due to enigmatic physiological influences skewing the elemental record. Understanding the patterns behind these influences will improve data interpretation and lead to the development of new climate proxies. Here, we show for the first time that extensive spatial mapping of multiple mollusc specimens using Laser Induced Breakdown Spectroscopy (LIBS) across a wider region can resolve enigmatic patterns within the elemental record caused by physiological influences. 2D elemental (Mg/Ca) maps of whole limpet shells (Patella caerulea) from across the Mediterranean revealed patterns of variability within individual mollusc records as well as within isochronous parts of specimens. By registering and quantifying these patterns, we established previously uninterpretable correlations with temperature (R20.8, p<0.01). This outcome redefines the possibilities of accessing sub-annual climate proxies and presents the means to assess annual temperature ranges using oxygen isotope analysis requiring only 2 samples per shell.

Niklas Hausmann
Niklas Hausmann
Emmy Noether Group Leader