Oxygen and carbon stable isotopic profiles of the fan mussel, Pinna nobilis, and reconstruction of sea surface temperatures in the Mediterranean

H. Kennedy*, C. Richardson, C. Duarte, D. Kennedy

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

62 Scopus citations


Stable oxygen and carbon isotope profiles (δ18Oskeletal and δ13Cskeletal), taken along the direction of growth from the umbo to the shell margin in shells of the pinnid Pinna nobilis, were used to reconstruct sea surface temperatures (SST) in the south-east Mediterranean and ontogenetic records of metabolic CO2 incorporation. Comparison of the seasonal cycle of SST, predicted from the δ18Oskeletal record of a small (young) rapidly growing pinnid and temperature measured with a continuous in situ recorder showed that P. nobilis calcifies under isotopic equilibrium with surrounding seawater, thus indicating that P. nobilis shells can be used as a reliable predictor of SST. A 10-year SST record for the south-east Mediterranean was reconstructed from the shell profiles of four pinnid shells of different sizes and ages collected in 1995 and 1996. Reliable resolution of the seasonal SST could only be achieved during the first 4 years of shell growth. As the pinnids grew older, the temperature record was poorly resolved because the shell growth had diminished with age, resulting in time-averaging of the record. The amplitude of the generated seasonal temperature cycle compared favourably (± 2°C) with a long-term temperature record from northern Mediterranean waters. Clear seasonal cycles in δ13Cskeletal were observed with an amplitude of ∼1.0‰, similar to the calculated seasonal changes in δ13C of seawater (0.6‰) overlying seagrass meadows. An ontogenetic trend towards less positive δ13Cskeletal values was too large to be attributed to any decrease in δ13C in seawater resulting from the invasion of anthropogenic CO2. It is suggested that the temporal changes of δ13Cskeletal are due to incorporation of respiratory CO2 into the extrapallial fluid and reflect changes in the metabolic activity of the pinnid rather than changes in the isotopic composition of dissolved inorganic carbon within the surrounding seawater.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1115-1124
Number of pages10
Issue number6
StatePublished - 2001
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Aquatic Science
  • Ecology


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