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Other research product . 2019

Technical note: The silicon isotopic composition of choanoflagellates: implications for a mechanistic understanding of isotopic fractionation during biosilicification

Marron, Alan; Cassarino, Lucie; Hatton, Jade; Curnow, Paul; Hendry, Katharine R.;
Open Access
Published: 17 Dec 2019

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.

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Funded by
Isotope CYcling in the LABrador Sea
  • Funder: European Commission (EC)
  • Project Code: 678371
  • Funding stream: H2020 | ERC | ERC-STG
Physical Aspects of the Evolution of Biological Complexity
  • Funder: European Commission (EC)
  • Project Code: 247333
  • Funding stream: FP7 | SP2 | ERC
  • Funder: Wellcome Trust (WT)
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