Composition and Association of Organic Matter with Calcium Carbonate and the Origin of Calcification

  • Richard M. Mitterer


Calcium carbonate is uniquely and characteristically associated with aspartic acid-rich (asp-rich) organic matter as an internal organic matrix and as an adsorbed phase. In addition to its adsorptive preference for carbonate surfaces, asp-rich organic matter also binds calcium ions in aqueous solution. Conversely, non-carbonate sediments are characterized by organic matter that is depleted in aspartic acid. Quartz preferentially adsorbs an asp-poor organic component. These properties indicate that asp-rich organic matter plays a significant role in controlling the nucleation and crystal growth of calcium carbonate in biological and abiological systems.

The development of calcification in the latest Precambrian-Early Cambrian represents a milestone evolutionary event. The subsequent fossil record, greatly enriched by the presence of these readily preserved calcareous skeletons, contains pulses of major extinctions. These two biological events — calcification and extinctions — are related here in a new hypothesis that provides a common explanation for both. The key to the hypothesis is a recent finding that calcification in modern marine organisms requires a minimum level of strontium in ambient seawater. Thus, the development of calcification may have been triggered when a critical level of strontium in the oceans was reached. Subsequent periodic decreases in the oceanic concentration of strontium may have been responsible for marine invertebrate extinctions.


Aspartic Acid Fulvic Acid Calcium Carbonate Organic Matrix Carbonate Sediment 
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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 1989

Authors and Affiliations

  • Richard M. Mitterer
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of GeosciencesUniversity of Texas at DallasRichardsonUSA

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