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Coccolith dissolution within copepod guts affects fecal pellet density and sinking rate
White, M.M.; Waller, J.D.; Lubelczyk, L.C.; Drapeau, D.T.; Bowler, B.C.; Balch, W.M.; Fields, D.M. (2018). Coccolith dissolution within copepod guts affects fecal pellet density and sinking rate. NPG Scientific Reports 8(1): 6 pp.
In: Scientific Reports (Nature Publishing Group). Nature Publishing Group: London. ISSN 2045-2322; e-ISSN 2045-2322, more
Peer reviewed article  

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  • White, M.M.
  • Waller, J.D.
  • Lubelczyk, L.C.
  • Drapeau, D.T.
  • Bowler, B.C.
  • Balch, W.M.
  • Fields, D.M.

    The most common biomineral produced in the contemporary ocean is calcium carbonate, including the polymorph calcite produced by coccolithophores. The surface waters of the ocean are supersaturated with respect to calcium carbonate. As a result, particulate inorganic carbon (PIC), such as calcite coccoliths, is not expected thermodynamically to dissolve in waters above the lysocline (~4500–6000 m). However, observations indicate that up to 60–80% of calcium carbonate is lost in the upper 500–1000 m of the ocean. This is hypothesized to occur in microenvironments with reduced saturation states, such as zooplankton guts. Using a new application of the highly precise 14C microdiffusion technique, we show that following a period of starvation, up to 38% of ingested calcite dissolves in copepod guts. After continued feeding, our data show the gut becomes increasingly buffered, which limits further dissolution; this has been termed the Tums hypothesis (after the drugstore remedy for stomach acid). As less calcite dissolves in the gut and is instead egested in fecal pellets, the fecal pellet sinking rates double, with corresponding increases in pellet density. Our results empirically demonstrate that zooplankton guts can facilitate calcite dissolution above the chemical lysocline, and that carbon export through fecal pellet production is variable, based on the feeding history of the copepod.

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