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Growth phase dependent hydrogen isotopic fractionation in alkenone-producing haptophytes

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Author(s): M. D. Wolhowe | F. G. Prahl | I. Probert | M. Maldonado

Journal: Biogeosciences Discussions
ISSN 1810-6277

Volume: 6;
Issue: 2;
Start page: 4165;
Date: 2009;
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ABSTRACT
Several recent works have investigated use of the hydrogen isotopic composition of C37 alkenones (δDK37s), lipid biomarkers of certain haptophyte microalgae, as an independent paleosalinity proxy. We discuss herein the factors impeding the success of such an application and identify the potential alternative use of δDK37s measurements as a proxy for non-thermal, physiological stress impacts on the U37K' paleotemperature index. Batch-culture experiments with the haptophyte Emiliania huxleyi (CCMP 1742) were conducted to determine the magnitude and variability of the isotopic contrasts between individual C37 alkenones, an analytical impediment to the use of δDK37s in any paleoceanographic context. Further experiments were conducted with Emiliania huxleyi (CCMP 1742) and Gephyrocapsa oceanica (PZ3-1) to determine whether, and to what extent, δDK37s varies between the physiological extremes of nutrient-replete exponential growth and nutrient-depleted senescence, the basis for our proposed use of the measurement as an indicator of stress. Emiliania huxleyi exhibited an isotopic contrast between di- and tri-unsaturated C37 alkenones (αK37:3−K37:2≈0.97) that is nearly identical to that reported recently by others for environmental samples. Furthermore, this contrast appears to be constant with growth stage. The consistency of the offset across different growth stages suggests that a single, well-defined value for αK37:3−K37:2 exists and that its use in an isotope mass-balance will allow accurate determination of δD values for individual alkenones without having to rely on time- and labor-intensive chemical separations. The isotopic fractionation between growth medium and C37 alkenones was observed to increase dramatically upon the onset of nutrient-depletion-induced senescence, suggesting that δDK37s may serve as an objective tool for recognizing and potentially correcting, at least semi-quantitatively, for the effects of nutrient stress on U37K'
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