Past Daily Light Cycle Recorded in the strontium/calcium Ratios of Giant Clam Shells

Nat Commun. 2012 Mar 27;3:761. doi: 10.1038/ncomms1763.


The historical record of daily light cycle in tropical and subtropical regions is short. Moreover, it remains difficult to extract this cycle in the past from natural archives such as biogenic marine carbonates. Here we describe the precise analysis of Sr/Ca, Mg/Ca, and Ba/Ca ratios in a cultivated giant clam shell, using a laterally high-resolution secondary ion mass spectrometer with 2 μm resolution. The Sr/Ca ratio exhibits striking diurnal variations, reflecting the daily light cycle. A clear seasonal variation in Sr/Ca is also observed in another longer set of measurements with 50 μm resolution. Light-enhanced calcification and elemental transportation processes, in giant clam and symbiotic algae, may explain these diurnal and annual variations. This opens the possibility to develop the Sr/Ca ratio from a giant clam shell as an effective proxy for parameters of the daily light cycle.

MeSH terms

  • Animal Shells / chemistry*
  • Animal Shells / physiology
  • Animals
  • Aquatic Organisms / physiology
  • Barium / analysis
  • Bivalvia / physiology*
  • Calcium / analysis*
  • Carbonates / analysis
  • Circadian Rhythm
  • Environment
  • Magnesium / analysis
  • Photoperiod*
  • Seasons
  • Shellfish
  • Spectrometry, Mass, Secondary Ion
  • Strontium / analysis*
  • Tropical Climate


  • Carbonates
  • Barium
  • Magnesium
  • Calcium
  • Strontium