Stable isotope evidence for identification of chemosynthesis-based fossil bivalves associated with cold-seepages

Ayumi Mae, Toshiro Yamanaka, Shoichi Shimoyama

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    16 Citations (Scopus)


    Fossil evidence of chemosynthesis-based organisms has so far been circumstantial and completely based on association of fossilized organisms with 13C-depleted authigenic carbonates. In this study, the stable isotopic signatures of preserved organic matter, conchiolin, in the fossil shell interior were used to obtain additional evidence for chemosynthesis-based bivalves, since the carbon, nitrogen, and sulfur isotopic compositions of soft tissues can distinguish chemosynthesis-based animals from marine photosynthesis-based animals. The carbon and nitrogen isotopic compositions of both soft tissues (the mantle) and conchiolin from modern chemosynthesis-based bivalves belonging to the genera Calyptogena and Bathymodiolus had small difference (Δ13Cconchiolin-mantle ≤ + 3‰, Δ15Nconchiolin-mantle ≤ - 1‰ with the exception of - 7.5‰ for a Calyptogena specimen). Sulfur isotope compositions of the conchiolin from Calyptogena whose lifestyle is almost entirely infaunal were significantly depleted in 34S, while epifaunal Bathymodiolus showed relatively small differences between the δ34S values of chonchiolin and soft tissues. Thus, a systematic difference in sulfur isotope compositions has not been observed for chemosynthesis-based bivalves (Δ34Sconchiolin-mantle = - 16.1 to + 2.6‰). Moreover, we were able to extract conchiolin from fossil bivalves to determine its isotopic compositions. The δ13C and δ15N values of the conchiolin obtained from the fossil Vesicomyidae were - 28.5 and - 1.4‰, respectively. The δ13C and δ15N values of lost soft tissues were estimated at approximately - 31‰ and - 1‰, respectively, by subtracting the Δconchiolin-mantle values determined for modern soft tissues and conchiolin (Δ13Cconchiolin-mantle = + 3‰, Δ 15Nconchiolin-mantle = - 1‰). Such values are expected for clams harboring thioautotrophic symbionts, suggesting that the fossil was dependent on chemosynthesis during its lifetime. In contrast, the carbon and nitrogen isotopic ratios of the conchiolin from the fossil Mytilidae were - 23.1‰ and + 4.2‰, respectively. The estimated δ13C and δ15N values of its lost soft tissues were approximately - 26‰ and + 5‰, respectively. These values are depleted in 13C and 15N relative to non-symbiont bearing marine organisms suggesting that this fossil likely supported chemosynthetic and/or methanotorophic symbionts and was also dependent on photosynthetically derived organic matter. Our study provides additional and more direct evidence for putative chemosynthesis-based bivalves, whether or not they harbor symbionts.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)411-420
    Number of pages10
    JournalPalaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology
    Issue number3-4
    Publication statusPublished - Mar 16 2007


    • Bathymodiolus
    • Calyptogena
    • Chemosynthesis-based fossil bivalves
    • Conchiolin
    • Preserved organic matter
    • Stable isotopes

    ASJC Scopus subject areas

    • Oceanography
    • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
    • Earth-Surface Processes
    • Palaeontology


    Dive into the research topics of 'Stable isotope evidence for identification of chemosynthesis-based fossil bivalves associated with cold-seepages'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

    Cite this