CR 30:263-269 (2006)  -  doi:10.3354/cr030263

Growth anomalies in Protothaca thaca (Mollusca, Veneridae) shells as markers of ENSO conditions

Claire E. Lazareth*, Grégory Lasne, Luc Ortlieb

PALEOTROPIQUE, Centre IRD (Institute de Recherche pour le Développement) d'Ile de France, 32 avenue Henri Varagnat, 93143 Bondy Cedex, France

ABSTRACT: Environmental variations can be recorded in bivalve shells, and this proxy information can be crucial for paleoceanographic studies in regions where other proxies (e.g. corals) are absent. We present the first sclerochronological study of Protothaca thaca (Mollusca, Veneridae), a common upper subtidal bivalve, characterized by a high temperature tolerance, from the SE Pacific Ocean (12 to 45°S). P. thaca is present in archaeological deposits and Holocene marine terraces, making it a potentially useful paleo-environmental recorder, particularly in respect to El Niño Southern Oscillation (ENSO) reconstructions. The sclerochronological analysis of recent P. thaca shells from Peru and Chile was done by microscopy of thin sections and acetate peel replicates; it shows that a clear 'summer check' (SC) is formed in the shell when sea surface temperature (SST) exceeds 18°C for several weeks. Under La Niña conditions in summer, SCs can be absent due to lower SST and enhanced productivity. During the strong 1997-1998 El Niño, long-lasting high summer SST produced an SC >520 µm wide. The relative width of SC on fossil shells may thus be an indicator of paleo-ENSO events. Our sclerochronological analysis has established a temporal framework in P. thaca shells, providing precise time-series analytical profiles, which is a prerequisite for future calibration of geochemical proxies.

KEY WORDS: Bivalve · Protothaca thaca · Peru · Chile · Sclerochronology · El Niño Southern Oscillation

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