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ABSTRACT

The identification of the remains of organisms contributing to carbonate sediments by means of scanning electron-microscopy is limited to particles of the 2–20 μm size class. Mineralogy and the content of Mg, Sr and trace elements alone are usually insufficient to solve the problem of identification, especially in the differentiation between algal and coral aragonite. The organic matrix of calcareous organisms consists of stable biopolymers such as polysaccharides and glycoproteins which are intimately associated with the carbonate skeleton. Analysis of these hydrolysed compounds gives rise to characteristic arrays of monosaccharides which provide independent criteria for producer identification. The calcareous green algae Halimeda, Penicillus and Udotea show high xylose and low fucose levels. Xylose and fucose levels are elevated in the red algae Amphiroa but only fucose is prominent in the brown algae Padina. The corals Oculina, Porites, Millipora and Montastrea are relatively rich in fucose and show little or no xylose. In the bivalves Arca, Codakia and in Argopecten mannose may be characteristic. Analysis of artificial and natural sediments demonstrates that coral and algal aragonite can be distinguished on the basis of the total sugar concentration and respective xylose and fucose levels. The applicability of the technique in comparison to geochemical and mineralogical methods has been demonstrated for surface sediments from varying water depths of Harrington Sound, Bermuda.