Manganese in the shell calcite of marine bivalves has been suggested to reflect ambient seawater Mn concentrations, thus providing a high-resolution archive of past seawater Mn concentrations. However, a quantitative relationship between seawater Mn and shell Mn/Ca ratios, as well as clear understanding of which process(es) control(s) shell Mn/Ca, are still lacking. Blue mussels, Mytilus edulis, were grown in a one-year duration field experiment in the Menai Strait, U.K., to study the relationship between seawater particulate and dissolved Mn2+ concentrations and shell calcite Mn/Ca ratios.
Shell Mn/Ca showed a well-defined intra-annual double-peak, with maximum values during early spring and early summer and low values during autumn and winter. Seawater particulate Mn peaked during winter and autumn, with a series of smaller peaks during spring and summer, whereas dissolved Mn2+ exhibited a marked single maximum during late-spring to early-summer, being low during the remainder of the year. Consequently, neither seawater particulate Mn nor dissolved Mn2+ concentrations explain the intra-annual variation of shell Mn/Ca ratios.
A physiological control on shell Mn/Ca ratios is evident from the strong similarity and timing of the double-peaked intra-annual variations of Mn/Ca and shell growth rate (SGR), the latter corresponding to periods of increased metabolic activity (as indicated by respiration rate). It is thus likely that in M. edulis SGR influences shell Mn/Ca by altering the concentration or activity of Mn2+ within the extra-pallial fluid (EPF), by changing the flux of Mn into or the proportion of protein bound Mn within the EPF. By linking shell Mn/Ca ratios to the endogenous and environmental factors that determine growth and metabolic activity, this study helps to explain the lack of a consistent relationship between shell Mn/Ca in marine bivalve shell calcite and seawater particulate and dissolved Mn2+ concentrations.
The use of Mn content from M. edulis shell calcite as a proxy for the dissolved and/or particulate Mn concentrations, and thus the biogeochemical processes that control them, remains elusive.