Biomineralization by particle attachment in early animals


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National Academy of Sciences


Crystallization by particle attachment (CPA) of amorphous precursors has been demonstrated in modern biomineralized skeletons across a broad phylogenetic range of animals. Precisely the same precursors, hydrated (ACC-H₂O) and anhydrous calcium carbonate (ACC), have been observed spectromicroscopically in echinoderms, mollusks, and cnidarians, phyla drawn from the 3 major clades of eumetazoans. Scanning electron microscopy (SEM) here also shows evidence of CPA in tunicate chordates. This is surprising, as species in these clades have no common ancestor that formed a mineralized skeleton and appear to have evolved carbonate biomineralization independently millions of years after their late Neoproterozoic divergence. Here we correlate the occurrence of CPA from ACC precursor particles with nanoparticulate fabric and then use the latter to investigate the antiquity of the former. SEM images of early biominerals from Ediacaran and Cambrian shelly fossils show that these early calcifiers used attachment of ACC particles to form their biominerals. The convergent evolution of biomineral CPA may have been dictated by the same thermodynamics and kinetics as we observe today.



biomineralization, calcium carbonate, skeleton, particle attachment