Abstract

Otoliths, the earbones of teleost (bony) fish, are constructed from alternating layers of aragonite and protein. Laser ablation inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometry and proton-induced X-ray emission are used to obtain spatially well-resolved trace element line-scans that show trace-element concentrations are correlated with the annular structure. Zoned Sr and Zn signatures are common whereas other elements such as Cu, Pb, Li and Cs can be related to the proximity of mineral deposits. Aragonite in otoliths can incorporate a wide range of trace elements at the low-ppm level including alkali- and alkaline-earth elements and base metals; Se has also been detected in proximity to coal mines. These trace elements, in combination with the annular structures, are an important archive for recording information on environments occupied by fish, environmental change and exposure to pollutants.

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