Stable Isotopes in a Mollusk Shell: Detection of Upwelling Events

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Science  13 Jul 1979:
Vol. 205, Issue 4402, pp. 186-188
DOI: 10.1126/science.205.4402.186


The California mussel Mytilus californianus records with high fidelity annual temperature variations of nearshore waters in the oxygen isotope composition of its shell. The onset and termination of upwelling events (and metabolic activity) are recorded in the associated carbon isotope signal, and the magnitude and timing of upwelling can be estimated. The method has implications for studying the history of upwelling and the life history of living and fossil mollusks and for analyzing shell midden deposits.