Infoscience

Journal article

Uranium-series dating and growth characteristics of the deep-sea scleractinian coral: Enallopsammia rostrata from the Equatorial Pacific

The deep-sea coral, Enallopsammia rostrata, a member of the Dendrophylliidae family, is a major structure-forming species that creates massive dendroid colonies, up to 1 m wide and 0.5 m tall. Living colonies of E. rostrata have been collected using the PISCES submersibles from three locations from 480 to 788 m water depth in the Line Islands (similar to 160 degrees W) in the Equatorial Pacific. We have applied to these colonies a high sensitivity, low blank technique to determine U-series ages in small quantities (70 +/- 15 mg) of modern and near modern calcareous skeletons using MC-ICP-MS (Multi-collector Inductively Coupled Plasma Mass Spectrometer). The application of this method to living slow-growing colonies from a range of sites as well as the observations of axial growth patterns in thin sections of their skeletons offer the first expanded and well constrained data on longevity, growth pattern and mean growth rates in E. rostrata. Absolute dated specimens indicate life spans of colonies ranging from 209 +/- 8 yrs to 605 +/- 7 yrs with radial growth rates from 0.012 to 0.072 mm yr(-1) and vertical extension rates from 0.6 to 1.9 mm yr(-1). The linear growth rates reported here are lower than those reported for other deep-sea scleractinian corals (Lophelia pertusa and Madrepora oculata). The U-series dating indicates that the growth ring patterns of E. rostrata are not consistent with annual periodicity emphasizing the importance of absolute radiometric dating methods to constrain growth rates. Slow accretion and extreme longevity make this species and its habitat especially vulnerable to disturbances and impacts from human activities. This dating method combined with observation of growth patterns opens up new perspectives in the field of deep-sea corals since it can provide quantitative estimates of growth rates and longevity of deep-sea corals in general.

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