This study was designed to investigate the effect of light and temperature on Sr/Ca and Mg/Ca ratios in the skeleton of the coral Acropora sp. for the purpose of evaluating temperature proxies for paleoceanographic applications. In the first experiment, corals were cultivated under three light levels (100, 200, 400 mu mol photons m(-2) s(-1)) and constant temperature (27 degrees C). In the second experiment, corals were cultivated at five temperatures (21, 23, 25, 27, 29 degrees C) and constant light (400 mu mol photons m(-2) s(-1)). Increasing the water temperature from 21 to 29 degrees C, induced a 5.7-fold increase in the rate of calcification, which induced a 30% increase in the Mg/Ca ratio. In contrast, by increasing the light level by a factor of 4, the rate of calcification was increased only by a factor of 1.7, with a corresponding 9% increase in the Mg/Ca ratio. Thus, the relative change in the calcification rate in the two experiments (5.7 vs. 1.7) scales with the corresponding relative change in Mg/Ca ratio (30% vs. 9%). We conclude that there is a strong biological control on the incorporation of Mg.