Coordination environment of Zn in foraminifera Elphidium aculeatum and Quinqueloculina seminula shells from a polluted site

Coordination environment of Zn in foraminifera Elphidium aculeatum and Quinqueloculina seminula shells from a polluted site

Publication Type:

Journal Article

Source:

Chemical Geology, Volume 477, p.100-111 (2018)

ISBN:

0009-2541

Abstract:

<p>Foraminifera, unicellular organisms that are widespread throughout marine ecosystems, build Ca-carbonate shells that may incorporate trace metals present in the ocean waters because of natural or anthropogenic supply. In this study, we focussed on the trace element Zn, which is abundant in both contaminated and clean waters. We used X-ray and electron spectromicroscopy to investigate the Zn coordinative environment in individual shells of two species of benthic foraminifera, Elphidium aculeatum and Quinqueloculina seminula, that were sampled from a heavy-metal polluted area of Sardinia, Italy. These species synthesise the Ca-carbonate in extracellular and intracellular spaces, respectively, which implies some diversity in their physiologies and cation transport processes, and they can adapt and survive in metal-polluted environments. Our analyses of X-ray micro-fluorescence (mu-XRF) maps and Zn-K mu-X-ray absorption near-edge spectroscopy (XANES) reveal that although 50% of Zn occurs as a Ca substitute in calcite or as a tetracoordinate oxygen-adsorbed ion, detectable amounts can also be found in other Zn-independent mineral phases, particularly hydrozincite, whose formation is due to foraminiferal cellular processes. Other Zn phases, sphalerite (attributed to early diagenetic process) and Zn-phosphate, were recognised. Moreover, we found distinct differences in the Zn concentration, distribution and chemical speciation at the micro- and nano-metric scales of the investigated E. aculeatum and Q. seminula species. In the calcite needles of Q. seminula, Zn is uniformly distributed and recognised in a disordered local environment, which suggests that it is incorporated in the calcite phase during the intracellular calcification process. These findings offer insight into Zn incorporation in foraminifera and its potential application in biomonitoring and environmental studies.</p>