Tracing timing of growth in cultured molluscs using strontium spiking

Niels J. de Winter*, Sterre van Sikkeleras, Barbara Goudsmit-Harzevoort, Wim Boer, Lennart de Nooijer, Gert Jan Reichart, Philippe Claeys, Rob Witbaard

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Introduction: Growth experiments present a powerful tool for determining the effect of environmental parameters on growth and carbonate composition in biogenic calcifiers. For successful proxy calibration and biomineralization studies, it is vital to identify volumes of carbonate precipitated by these organisms at precise intervals during the experiment. Here, we investigate the use of strontium labelling in mollusc growth experiments. Methods: Three bivalve species (Cerastoderma edule, Mytilus edulis and Ostrea edulis) were grown under monitored field conditions. The bivalves were regularly exposed to seawater with elevated concentrations of dissolved strontium chloride (SrCl2). In addition, the size of their shells was determined at various stages during the experiment using calliper measurements and digital photography. Trace element profiles were measured in cross sections through the shells of these molluscs using laser ablation ICPMS and XRF techniques. Results: Our results show that doses of dissolved strontium equivalent to 7-8 times the background marine value (~0.6 mmol/L) are sufficient to cause reproducible peaks in shell-incorporated strontium in C. edule and M. edulis shells. No negative effects were observed on shell calcification rates. Lower doses (3-5 times background values) resulted in less clearly identifiable peaks, especially in M. edulis. Strontium spiking labels in shells of O. edulis are more difficult to detect, likely due to their irregular growth. Discussion: Strontium spiking is a useful technique for creating time marks in cultured shells and a reproducible way to monitor shell size during the growing season while limiting physical disturbance of the animals. However, accurate reconstructions of growth rates at high temporal resolution require frequent spiking with high doses of strontium.

Original languageEnglish
Article number1157929
Pages (from-to)1-21
Number of pages21
JournalFrontiers in Marine Science
Publication statusPublished - 5 Apr 2023

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This study is part of the UNBIAS project, jointly funded by a Flemish Research Foundation (FWO; 12ZB220N) post-doctoral fellowship (NdW) and a MSCA Individual Fellowship (H2020-MSCA-IF-2018; 843011 – UNBIAS; awarded to NdW). G-JR and LKD acknowledge funding from the Netherlands Earth System Science Center (NESSC; grant no. 024.002.001) from the Dutch Ministry for Education, Culture and Science (gravitation grant no. NWO 024.002.001). BG, NdW, RW and MZ acknowledge support from the Royal Netherlands Institute for Sea Research (NIOZ) and Utrecht University under a NIOZ-UU collaboration grant.

Publisher Copyright:
Copyright © 2023 de Winter, van Sikkeleras, Goudsmit-Harzevoort, Boer, de Nooijer, Reichart, Claeys and Witbaard.


  • growth experiment
  • mollusk (mollusc)
  • proxy development
  • shell
  • trace element


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