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Structural and Geochemical Assessment of the Coralline Alga Tethysphytum antarcticum from Terra Nova Bay, Ross Sea, Antarctica

TitoloStructural and Geochemical Assessment of the Coralline Alga Tethysphytum antarcticum from Terra Nova Bay, Ross Sea, Antarctica
Tipo di pubblicazioneArticolo su Rivista peer-reviewed
Anno di Pubblicazione2023
AutoriM. Correa, López, Teichert S., Ragazzola F., S. Vázquez Cazorla, Engel F.B., Hurle K., Mazzoli C., Kuklinski P., Raiteri G., and Lombardi Chiara

Crustose coralline algae (CCA) occur from the tropics to the poles in photic benthic environments. Here, we report on some of the world’s southernmost and coldest CCA sites in Terra Nova, Ross Sea, Antarctica at 74°41′ S. The recently described red alga Tethysphytum antarticum is investigated for its skeletal architecture, its mineralogical and geochemical composition, as well as for its taxonomic classification. A phylogenetic analysis based on molecular genetics and the sequencing of the photosystem II protein D1 (psbA) gave a perfect match with T. antarcticum. Histological sections and micro-CT-scans provide new diagnostic details for the conceptacles (the reproductive organs of the alga). X-ray diffractometry and electron-microprobe measurements yielded a clear high-Mg calcite ( 8 mol%) composition of the skeletal parts. Detailed back-scattered electron imaging of polished petrographic thin sections revealed a two-layered thallus (vegetative plant tissue), comprising an organic-rich irregularly calcified basal layer with rectangular cells, overlain by the main thallus. Elemental maps show relatively increased sulphur in the basal layer, clearly tied to organic cell walls. MgCO3 and SrCO3 were targeted with semiquantitative elemental mappings and in an ontogenetic quantitative spot transect. Compared with temperature (−1.95 °C to +1.08 °C), the MgCO3 (mol%) reflects this world’s coldest CCA site temperature with the lowest MgCO3 content of 7.9 ± 1.6 mol%. The along transect variability, however, shows with 6 mol% a larger MgCO3 variability than expected for the 3 °C intra-annual temperature amplitude in Terra Nova Bay. This implies that in low amplitude settings the biomineralisation control on Mg/Ca ratios can outcompete its temperature sensitivity. Mark-recapture studies, next to the environmental logger station La Zecca are suggested, to perform a detailed growth rate and biomineralisation quantification. © 2023 by the authors.


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Citation KeyLópezCorrea2023