Articles | Volume 6, issue 8
19 Aug 2009
 | 19 Aug 2009

Growth phase dependent hydrogen isotopic fractionation in alkenone-producing haptophytes

M. D. Wolhowe, F. G. Prahl, I. Probert, and M. Maldonado

Abstract. 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. Further experiments were conducted with Emiliania huxleyi (CCMP 1742) andGephyrocapsa 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. Emiliania huxleyi was observed to exhibit 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 may exist 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' temperature records.

Final-revised paper