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Ultrastructure and crystallography of nanoscale calcite building blocks in Rhabdosphaera clavigera coccolith spines

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JournalCRYSTAL GROWTH DESIGN
DateE-pub ahead of print - 18 Mar 2014
DatePublished (current) - Mar 2014
Issue number4
Volume14
Number of pages8
Pages (from-to)1710–1718
Early online date18/03/14
Original languageEnglish

Abstract

Coccolithophores create an intricate exoskeleton from nanoscale calcite platelets. Shape, size and crystal orientation is controlled to a remarkable degree. In this study, the structure of Rhabdosphaera clavigera is described in detail for the first time through a combination of electron microscopy techniques, including three-dimensional electron tomography. This coccolithophore exhibits several micron long five-fold symmetric spines with diameters of approximately 0.5 µm. The nanorystals constituting the spine are arranged radially along the longitudinal axis, protruding from the almost flat disks that form the coccosphere. The stem of the spine is shown to consist of {104} calcite rhombohedra single crystalline platelets, arranged in five separate spiral ‘staircases’. The spine tip shows fifteen structural elements: five large ’panels’ protruding outwards along the lateral plane and five leaf shaped smaller units which form the topmost steps of the staircases. The outer tip consists of five long thin platelets protruding along the length of the spine axis. This feature extends downwards into the spine-core. This core-feature may serve as a base for crystal nucleation and assembly analogous to the proto-coccolith ring in the V/R growth model 1. However, we find significant dissimilarities of the crystal elements constituting the spine in comparison to that model.

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