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- Department of Plant Sciences University of Cambridge United Kingdom
- University of Cambridge United Kingdom
- School of Earth Sciences University of Bristol United Kingdom
- THE CHANCELLOR, MASTERS AND SCHOLARS OF THE UNIVERSITY OF CAMBRIDGE United Kingdom
- University of Bristol (UoB) United Kingdom
- University of Bristol United Kingdom
The marine silicon cycle is intrinsically linked with carbon cycling in the oceans via biological production of silica by a wide range of organisms. The stable silicon isotopic composition (denoted by δ30Si) of siliceous microfossils extracted from sediment cores can be used as an archive of past oceanic silicon cycling. However, the silicon isotopic composition of biogenic silica has only been measured in diatoms, sponges and radiolarians, and isotopic fractionation relative to seawater is entirely unknown for many other silicifiers. Furthermore, the biochemical pathways and mechanisms that determine isotopic fractionation during biosilicification remain poorly understood. Here, we present the first measurements of the silicon isotopic fractionation during biosilicification by loricate choanoflagellates, a group of protists closely related to animals. We cultured two species of choanoflagellates, Diaphanoeca grandis and Stephanoeca diplocostata, which showed consistently greater isotopic fractionation (approximately −5 ‰ to −7 ‰) than cultured diatoms (−0.5 ‰ to −2.1 ‰). Instead, choanoflagellate silicon isotopic fractionation appears to be more similar to sponges grown under similar dissolved silica concentrations. Our results highlight that there is a taxonomic component to silicon isotope fractionation during biosilicification, possibly via a shared or related biochemical transport pathway. These findings have implications for the use of biogenic silica δ30Si produced by different silicifiers as proxies for past oceanic change.