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Keywords:

  • Kaolinite;
  • replacement;
  • glycosaminoglycans (GAGs);
  • lingulid shells Carboniferous

Organophosphatic shells of the brachiopod Lingula squarniformis, collected from Scottish Lower Carboniferous shales and mudstones of intertidal to sublittoral provenance, have been studied to ascertain chemico-structural changes resulting from fossilization. Enough original shell has been preserved at ultrastructural and molecular levels to confirm that Carboniferous and Recent integuments are homologous with stratiform successions of apatitic to organic laminae forming rhythmic sets. One of the main organic constituents, the acidic, hydrophilic gel glycosaminoglycans (GAGs), is the dominant component towards the tops of rhythms. During fossilization of the Carboniferous shells, GAGs degraded incrementally without disturbing apatitic ultrastructures, and the spaces so created became partly filled with sheets of recrystal-lized apatite with some kaolinite or with books and plates of kaolinite. The kaolinite in the shells contrasts with the illite of the entombing sediments and suggests that degrading acidic GAGs mediated in clay formation in situ. The sediments also contain framboidal pyrite, which is virtually absent from the shells themselves but is usually even more abundant, with a greater range of trace metals, in the sedimentary fills of complete shells. This imbalance suggests mediation by another gel, the glycocalyx, secreted by the inner epithelium of the brachiopod mantle. The glycocalyx would have lined the shell interior and could have served as a sorption film for dissolved metals precipitated as compounds on decomposition of body tissue.