The Ghost in the Shell : Local and Remote Forcing of a Coastal Bivalve Inhabiting the Humboldt Current System

Friday, 19 December 2014
Marc Gosselin, University Pierre and Marie Curie Paris VI, Paris, France
The external skeleton of mollusc bivalves, the shell, can furnish a recording of the environmental changes to which the organisms and population are exposed during their lives. The bivalve’s growth is subjected to the thermocline variability; which itself is affected by environmental and climatic events.

A highly variable environment such as the Humboldt current system (HCS) requires tools capable of recording its variations over a wide range of periodicities. Upwelling, Coastal trapped waves (CTWs), El Niño Southern Oscillation, and Pacific decadal oscillation events contribute to this environmental and climatic variability. The thermocline depth is modified by these different events at their own time-scales (respectively, daily to weekly, intraseasonally, interseasonally to interannually, and on a decadal scale). The thermocline variation translates into changes in Sea surface temperature (SST) and in the qualitative and quantitative productivity of phytoplankton. These two environmental factors are critical to bivalve growth.

The sclerochronological (increment width) and sclerochemical (δ18O and δ13C) study consisted on the analysis of the Chilean bivalve Eurhomalea rufa, collected in 2005, as a recorder of the environmental HCS variability. The calibration step identified daily, monthly, and annual marks in the growth patterns of E. rufa. The results confirmed that the thermocline variability mainly drives the bivalve’s activity and led to the establishment of a paleotemperature equation. Moreover, periodogram and wavelet analyses exposed the respective impacts of each environmental event from daily to interannual periodicities. In particular, the growth pattern of E. rufa follows SST variability at an intraseasonal periodicity (~ 60 days) which is remotely induced by CTWs. CTWs are generated by Kelvin oceanic waves, which are formed primarily by eastward equatorial Pacific winds (e.g. Shaffer et al. 1997; Montecino and Lange 2009).

Sclerochronological studies on HCS bivalve shells can provide access to different periodicities, from daily to interannual. Studying shells of modern specimens can thus provide important information on bivalve growth parameters as well as on the variations and timescales of the surrounding environment such as SST and productivity.