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Influence of the Depth on the Shape and Thickness of Nacre Tablets of Pinctada margaritifera Pearl Oyster, and on Oxygen Isotopic Composition

Abstract : Nacre, or mother of pearl, is composed of aragonite tablets and is produced by some mollusks. Because of the highly organized internal structure, chemical complexity, mechanical properties and optical effects of nacre, its formation is among the best-studied examples of calcium carbonate biomineralization. The pearl oyster Pinctada margaritifera is harvested in French Polynesia for pearl farming. The quality of the pearl depends on the quality of the nacre on its surface and its iridescent colors are affected by the thickness of the layers. Here we report on an experimental study conducted to influence the shape and the thickness of nacre tablets by keeping pearl oysters at four different depths (7, 20, 30 and 39 m) for one week. Scanning electron microscopy was used to measure the thickness of the nacre tablets and to analyze their final shape. The shape of the tablets changed from hexagonal to rhomboid at a depth of 39 m. The change in shape led to a change in size. The thickness of the tablets was reduced by between 16 and 30% on average. We also measured the oxygen isotopic composition using Secondary Ion Mass Spectrometry. In this study, we demonstrated that depth can modify the size, shape and thickness of nacre tablets, but not the δ 18 O. This environmental modification is important for the biomineralization of the shell of the pearl oyster Pinctada margaritifera.
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Marthe Rousseau, Claire Rollion-Bard. Influence of the Depth on the Shape and Thickness of Nacre Tablets of Pinctada margaritifera Pearl Oyster, and on Oxygen Isotopic Composition. Minerals, MDPI, 2012, 2 (1), pp.55-64. ⟨10.3390/min2010055⟩. ⟨insu-02160407⟩

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