From the Arctic to the Antarctic: the major, minor, and trace elemental composition of echinoderm skeletons

Ecological Archives E094-127


  • Corresponding Editor: W. K. Michener.


Biogenic carbonate production in benthic marine ecosystems is dominated by representatives of the Echinodermata. Carbon and other major, minor, and trace elements are exported to the seabed where they accumulate or dissolve. Preserved carbonates (Mg-calcite) have applications in oceanography and geochemistry and are used to reconstruct various parameters of ancient seawater, such as temperature (from Mg/Ca, Sr/Ca), seawater Mg/Ca (from Mg/Ca), and pH (from B/Ca). In general, the benthos is widely ignored for its role in the global carbon cycle despite the importance of echinoderms as a carbon sink (∼0.1–0.2 Pg C/yr). Echinoderms produce their skeletons from Mg-calcite, which is more soluble than pure calcite and, therefore, more vulnerable to ocean acidification (OA). Minor and trace elements can also destabilize the calcite lattice, increasing the mineral's solubility. Little is known about the concentration of such elements in echinoderm tests. Expanding our knowledge on echinoderm skeleton composition will improve our understanding of elemental flux in the oceans. Furthermore, establishing relationships between the physical parameters of seawater and minor/trace elemental ratios within echinoderm Mg-calcite should expand the utility of fossils as geochemical archives. Herein, we present elemental composition data for Asteroidea (n = 108; 9 families, 23 species), Echinoidea (n = 94; 8 families, 12 species), Ophiuroidea (n = 24; 4 families, 5 species), Holothuroidea (n = 7; 3 families, 3 species), and Crinoidea (n = 3; 1 family, 1 species), collected from the Arctic to the Antarctic oceans, from depths ranging from surface waters to 1200 m. The following elements were measured and normalized to [Ca]: Li, Be, Mg, Al, P, S, K, Sc, Ti, V, Cr, Mn, Fe, Co, Ni, Cu, Zn, Ga, Ge, As, Se, Rb, Sr, Y, Zr, Mo, Ag, Cd, Sn, Sb, Te, Ba, La, Ce, Nd, Dy, W, Re, Au, Hg, Tl, Pb, Bi, and U. Data are presented for the whole body, arms (plates), calcareous ossicles, spines, and test plates. Elements were quantified using inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometry. Our study presents the most comprehensive data set to date for a phylum whose skeletons are composed of Mg-calcite.