Thin-sections of marine bivalve shells: a window to environmental reconstructions on daily scale?

Thomas.Brey [ at ]


“Bioarchives” are organisms, which form hard parts over the course of their lifetime that remain even after the death of the organism. Environmental conditions prevailed during the lifetime of the bioarchives can be approximated from anatomical, morphological and geochemical properties on the shell. For instance, shell growth rates constitute a “proxy” of general living conditions, oxygen isotope ratios (δ18O) are an established proxy of water temperature, and shell content of heavy metals or of organic constituents can be indicative specific pollution histories. Due to their high resolution, bivalve shells are well suited for sclerochronological studies. Generally, this science focuses on growth rates and chemical properties of hard parts. The ocean quahog Arctica islandica is suited as a bioarchive due to its broad geographic distribution and longevity. This study looks at growth patterns in the shells of the bivalve A. islandica (marine) and Unio sp. (freshwater). The objective was to establish standard procedures for shell preparation to visualize shell increments formed on a daily basis (“microincrements”). In order to visualize microincrements thin-sections of the marine bivalve A. islandica and the freshwater bivalve Unio sp. were prepared. Therefore, different attempts for embedding, etching, bleaching and visualization were tested. Microincrements are visible in thin-sections of both genera. The microincrements of the freshwater mussel Unio sp. are significantly smaller (1.5 μm on average) than those of A. islandica (12.5 μm on average). However, microincrements in Unio sp. are more easily recognizable and can be measured consecutively over a range of more than one year. The visualization of microincrements in A. islandica remained more challenging and therefore additional attempts such as bleaching, etching and additional visualization techniques were tested for their potential to improve the visualization of microincrements. The visualization of microincrements in A. islandica still needs further improvement before measured microincrement widths can be correlated to environmental data. However, Unio sp. seems to have great potential and can be used as a window to reconstruct environmental data on a daily scale in the future.

Item Type
Thesis (Bachelor)
Primary Division
Primary Topic
Publication Status
Eprint ID
Cite as
von Leesen, G. (2014): Thin-sections of marine bivalve shells: a window to environmental reconstructions on daily scale? Bachelor thesis,

[thumbnail of Bachelorarbeit_Gotje_Druckversion_klein.pdf]

Download (3MB) | Preview
Cite this document as:

Add to AnyAdd to TwitterAdd to FacebookAdd to LinkedinAdd to PinterestAdd to Email

Geographical region

Research Platforms


Edit Item Edit Item