Electron backscatter diffraction (EBSD) is a powerful microscopic technique to characterise the crystallography of biomineralisation. Here, we use high-resolution EBSD to characterise one of the least studied shells in the ocean, the female argonaut brood chamber, and to examine the changes in shell microstructure in response to incubation in decreased pH conditions. The thin (225 μm) shell of Argonauta nodosa is magnesium calcite with an average magnesium content of ca. 5.1 Wt % MgCO3. EBSD and scanning electron microscopy (SEM) revealed that calcification of the shell is bidirectional with formation of irregular crystalline grains. Following a 2 week incubation in a range of pH treatments (pH, 8.1–7.2), shell fragment weight decreased by dissolution in pH ≤ 7.8. EBSD and SEM revealed altered shell crystallography and microstructure at pH ≤ 7.4 due to preferential etching down crystallite grain boundaries and a change in crystalline orientation on both the inner and outer shell surfaces. Our study highlights the value of EBSD for the detailed examination of biogenic carbonates and its potential use in the field of ocean acidification research.
Wolfe K., Smith A. M., Trimby P. & Byrne M., in press. Microstructure of the paper nautilus (Argonauta nodosa) shell and the novel application of electron backscatter diffraction (EBSD) to address effects of ocean acidification. Marine Biology. doi: 10.1007/s00227-012-2032-4. Article (subscription required).